China makes 2-week quarantine compulsory for foreign returnees as 'imported' cases rise

K J M Varma

Beijing, Mar 15 (PTI) China on Sunday reported 10 more fatalities due to the novel coronavirus, taking the death toll to 3,199, while the imported cases rose to 111, prompting authorities to order a compulsory 14-day quarantine in 'special facilities' for foreigners arriving here from Monday.

China's National Health Commissions (NHC) said 20 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus infection and 10 deaths were reported from all over the country on Saturday.

Sixteen imported cases were reported on the mainland Saturday. Among them, five were reported in Beijing, four in Zhejiang Province, three in both Shanghai and Gansu Province, as well as one in Guangdong Province. By the end of Saturday, 111 imported cases had been reported, NHC said.

With the increase in imported cases, Beijing local government has announced to send all international arrivals into the city to quarantine facilities starting Monday as part of stepped-up measures against COVID-19 cases from abroad.

People arriving from abroad had previously been allowed to undergo the mandatory two-week quarantine at home, but now only those in 'special circumstances' will be exempted from being sent to facilities where they must pay for their stay, state-run Beijing Daily reported Sunday.

Only four new domestic cases were detected, all in Hubei province's capital Wuhan, the city where the virus first emerged in December before growing into a national crisis and a pandemic.

All the 10 deaths were in Wuhan, bringing the national toll from the disease in mainland China to 3,199.

The overall confirmed cases on the mainland reached 80,778 by the end of Saturday, including 3,199 people who died of the disease in the last three months, 10,734 patients still undergoing treatment and 66,911 patients discharged after recovery, it said.

By the end of Saturday, 141 confirmed cases including four deaths had been reported in Hong Kong Special, 10 confirmed cases in the Macao and 53 in Taiwan including one death.

'No locally transmitted confirmed cases have been reported in Hubei outside Wuhan for 10 consecutive days,' Mi Feng, spokesperson for the National Health Commission, said Sunday at a press conference in Beijing.

Mi noted that the daily number of the newly confirmed indigenous cases on the mainland outside Hubei Province has been in single digits since February 27, with no new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases reported for three consecutive days.

Currently, the most pressing and important task is to prioritise medical treatment work and strive to improve the cure rate, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Mi as saying.

China's Ministry of Education has announced that though the COVID-19 is slowing down, schools won't resume until local authorities put the virus outbreak under control and roll out necessary containment measures.

Wang Dengfeng, director of the ministry's working group on epidemic control, said local authorities shall consult experts before reopening schools and safety of the faculty members should be ensured.

Resumption would be prioritised for the graduating classes in middle and high school, as they were supposed to sit for the high school or college entrance examination in about 80 days, he was quoted as saying by China Central Television.

Wang said that the ministry is seeking advice from related departments as well as representatives of students and parents on whether to postpone the college entrance exams and the decisions will be made soon.

Local authorities are entitled to decide whether to postpone the exam for high school candidates, state-run China Daily reported on Saturday.

The deadly novel coronavirus has claimed over 5,300 lives and infected more than 142,000 people across 135 countries and territories, with the World Health Organisation describing the outbreak a pandemic on Wednesday. PTI KJV ZH CPS