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Global Times

Jilin COVID-19 cases surge after 2-day drop; avoiding infection risk at testing sites key to week-long clearance plan

Global Times

By Wang Qi Published: Mar 18, 2022 05:40 PM

After a two-day drop in the number of infections since Tuesday, locally transmitted cases in Northeast China's Jilin Province surged sharply on Thursday, casting a shadow on the provincial government which has vowed to crush the outbreak within a week.

Experts expressed confidence in Jilin's overall situation, saying that if Jilin can achieve more refined grassroots management to avoid infections during the massive nucleic acid testing, it is not an unrealistic goal to eliminate cases in the community in a week.

China's National Health Commission on Friday said that 2,388 domestically-transmitted cases in the Chinese mainland were recorded on Thursday, with 1,834 in Jilin Province.

The epidemic situation in Jilin Province is still grim and complex, with Changchun and Jilin cities seriously affected, accounting for more than 98 percent of the total infections in the province, Zhang Li, the vice head of Jilin's provincial health authority, said on Friday.

Zhang said the outbreak shows a high degree of clustering, that gatherings in schools, companies and villages are the main causes of the spread of the virus.

Jilin has barred people from moving across provinces, cities and prefectures, and classes at all elementary and secondary schools and kindergartens have been suspended. Zhang said the risk of a cluster of outbreaks and a surge in the number of infections over a short period has effectively been contained.

According to the Jilin provincial government's latest release, officials deployed a new round of nucleic acid testing on Thursday night. The government said those with poor work performance will be punished, as the testing must be of high quality and no one should be left behind.

As of Thursday, 16 officials in Jilin have been punished or removed from their posts due to their performances in the latest battle against the Omicron variant.

However, many netizens said on Weibo that it's not about how many rounds of testing they administer, but about avoiding infections during mass testing.

"I really think many were infected during the nucleic acid tests. We couldn't keep a safe distance in line because there were too many people, and some were smoking and chatting without wearing masks. I understand the hard work of the medical staff and community volunteers, but I have to admit that our experience and preparation are not enough," a Weibo user said.

"I hope the government will arrange for us to have nucleic acid tests in an orderly manner, as the current cluster can easily lead to new infections, wasting human and financial resources," said another.

Yang Zhanqiu, a professor with the pathogen biology department at Wuhan University, told the Global Times on Friday that the surging infections are closely related to the highly contagious Omicron, which has a shorter incubation period -- about 3 days.

It is possible for residents to get infected during testing if protective measures are not followed properly, Yang said. "And it only takes one person to become infected and then easily increase the number of cases."

Yang said Jilin needs more refined community management. He took Wuhan as an example, saying the lines for nucleic acid testing there were generally controlled at about 50 meters, and the testing took buildings as units and at different times.

As for Jilin's goal of achieving zero COVID-19 in its communities in a week, Yang said it is not an unrealistic goal. Seizing the opportunity to screen out cases as soon as possible is the right direction, he added.

Because of the short incubation period of Omicron, conducting 2-3 rounds of massive screening within a week is enough to achieve the social-level clearance, said Yang.

He said within three days to a week, the epidemic situation in Jilin will show an inflection point.

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