On Thursday China reported the first Covid-19-related death in eight months as it logged the highest single-day tally of 138 new infections since March last year for Wednesday.
More than 28 million people are under lockdown in the north of the country and one province has declared an emergency; as daily Covid-19 numbers climb after months of reporting only a handful of cases.
The National Health Commission (NHC) did not share details about the latest death, except to say that it occurred in Hebei province; the worst-hit province in the latest resurgence of cases, where the government has placed several cities under lockdown.
The last death from Covid-19 in China was recorded on May 17 last year.
The Chinese mainland reported 138 new confirmed cases and 78 asymptomatic ones on Thursday for the previous 24 hours.
Of all the confirmed cases, 81 come from Hebei, including 75 in its capital city Shijiazhuang.
The province has 16 active severe cases in hospitals.
In a sign of the new wave spreading across the country, northeastern Heilongjiang declared an “emergency state” on Wednesday; telling its 37.5 million residents not to leave the province unless absolutely necessary and saying public gatherings would be cancelled.
The death comes as China readies for the arrival of an expert team of scientists from the World Health Organization (WHO); who will start a politically sensitive investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The team is expected to arrive in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the new coronavirus was first detected in late 2019; directly from Singapore on Thursday.
Peter Ben Embarek, the WHO’s top expert on animal diseases that cross to other species who went to China on a preliminary mission last July; is leading the 10 independent experts, a WHO spokesperson said.
Hung Nguyen, a Vietnamese biologist and part of the 10-member team; told Reuters that he did not expect any restrictions on the group’s work in China; but cautioned against finding firm answers.
Embarek said the group would start with a two-week quarantine at a hotel due to China’s border requirements.
“And then after the two weeks, we would be able to move around and meet our Chinese counterparts in person; and go to the different sites that we will want to visit,” he said.
“The idea is to advance a number of studies that were already designed; and decided upon some months ago to get us a better understanding of what happened,” he said.