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China fights new coronavirus clusters
AFP
Published : Saturday, 9 January, 2021 at 1:03 AM

China sealed off two cities and imposed travel restrictions on 18 million people on Friday in an effort to eliminate fresh coronavirus clusters, as the United States reported a record number of deaths from the disease.

Authorities in the two cities south of Beijing cut transport links and instituted mass testing after 127 infections were recorded in the region over the past week.

They joined Australia's third-largest city in taking an ultra-cautious approach to the pandemic, with Brisbane announcing a lockdown over a single infection.

The responses to the relatively small outbreaks contrasted sharply with the chaos surrounding runaway infection figures in many other parts of the world.

The United States reported a daily record on Thursday with nearly 4,000 deaths, while the toll in Brazil hit 200,000.

Many countries in east Asia however have managed to deal with outbreaks more effectively, and China on Friday moved to contain its largest cluster in six months with its usual tight restrictions.

The northern cities of Shijiazhuang and Xingtai, home to more than five million people, were effectively sealed off.

Long-distance passenger vehicle transport in both cities was suspended as of on Friday, and highways were closed. Flights to and from Shijiazhuang were cancelled, and trains suspended.

Orders to remain in their local areas were placed on everyone in Shijiazhuang and Xingtai, as well as surrounding regions.

The number of people in the areas facing some form of restrictions totalled roughly 18 million people.

So far around 6.7 million residents of the area have been tested, officials said on Friday.

'Exhausted'

Around the world, there are few signs of the virus abating, with over 1.9 million people known to have died worldwide and more than 88 million confirmed cases.

The numbers continue to get worse in the United States, the country with the world's highest death toll, at more than 360,000.

The nation registered a record 3,998 deaths over the past 24 hours, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Brazil, the country with the second-highest toll, reported its second-highest number of daily deaths at 1,524.

Cremation controversy

Sri Lanka's government insists on the cremation of all coronavirus victims, rejecting international pleas to allow the Muslim minority to bury their dead in line with Islamic custom.

Bhutan's first death

The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan records its first virus death after 10 months of seeking to isolate itself from the pandemic, with a 34-year-old man dying after testing positive on December 23.

The number of deaths globally is broadly under-estimated. The toll is calculated from daily figures published by national health authorities and does not include later revisions by statistics agencies.

Deshsangbad/dt/fh/mmh


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