China reported a record rise in imported coronavirus cases on Friday as students and expatriates returned home from the United States and Europe, sparking fears of a second wave of infections just as the country recovers from the initial outbreak.
All 41 of the new confirmed cases in China were imported from overseas, the country’s National Health Commission said on Saturday, bringing the total number of such cases to 269. There were no locally transmitted cases for the third consecutive day.
Beijing and Shanghai were the main entry points for the returnees, many of whom are students studying abroad. They have come back after many campuses in the United States and Europe shut down to stem rapidly rising infection rates there.
Also returning in a flight to safety were China-based expats, as businesses begin to reopen.
While there is no reported transmission of the virus from people arriving from abroad to local communities, authorities across China are tightening public health measures.
“Since March 11, when the World Health Organization characterized the epidemic as a pandemic, the cumulative number of imported cases (in China) has risen from 85 to 269, up by 216% and outpacing the 98% increase in the cumulative worldwide confirmed cases during the same period,” Mi Feng, spokesman of the National Health Commission, said at a regular press briefing.
China must strictly prevent the import of the virus from overseas and a rebound in cases, Mi said.
Of the 14 new imported cases in Beijing on Friday, five were Chinese students returning from abroad. Among Shanghai’s record nine cases, five were students flying back from Britain, France and Switzerland.
The southern provinces of Guangdong, Fujian, and the eastern provinces of Shandong and Zhejiang, as well as Shaanxi and Sichuan, all reported cases.
Guangdong’s health commission said on Saturday travelers who enter Guangdong province from abroad will be subject to a 14-day quarantine on arrival either in personal residences or at a centralized quarantine center at the expense of the traveler.
Infected people have also entered China through the major transport hub of Shenzhen, including people making their way back to the mainland from Hong Kong by land.