China sees surge in imported coronavirus cases as students, others fly home

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China fears a fresh coronavirus outbreak as infected students and expatriates return home from the U.S. and Europe and the number of imported virus cases in the country surge.

China on Sunday reported a record rise of 45 imported coronavirus cases -- the fourth straight day with an increase, Reuters reported. Officials reported one other coronavirus case that had been locally transmitted. That person, however, was infected by someone arriving from overseas.

On Saturday, 41 imported coronavirus cases were reported by the country’s National Health Commission, according to Reuters.

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The number of these cases now totals 314.

There were no locally transmitted cases for three consecutive days last week from Wednesday to Friday, Reuters reported.

In a sign of how seriously China is taking the threat of imported cases — and a new outbreak --all international flights due to arrive in Beijing starting Monday will first land at another airport, where passengers will undergo virus screening, Reuters reported.

A woman wearing a protective mask looks at blossoms in a park on a sunny day in Beijing as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), China, March 21, 2020. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter) 

A woman wearing a protective mask looks at blossoms in a park on a sunny day in Beijing as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), China, March 21, 2020. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter) 

International flights that were scheduled to arrive in the capital will land instead at one of 12 airports. Government regulators said passengers who clear screening will then be permitted to reboard the plane, which will then fly to Beijing, according to the news wire.

A number of students have been forced to return 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 ex-pats, as businesses begin to reopen, Reuters reported.

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“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 percent and outpacing the 98 percent increase in the cumulative worldwide confirmed cases during the same period,” a National Health Commission spokesman said Saturday.

A traveler wearing protective clothing and a full-face mask goes up an escalator after leaving Beijing Railway Station as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), China, March 20, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 

A traveler wearing protective clothing and a full-face mask goes up an escalator after leaving Beijing Railway Station as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), China, March 20, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 

According to Reuters, the new locally transmitted case was in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou.

More alarming, it was the first known case where the infection of a local person was linked to the arrival of someone from overseas.

Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the Global Times newspaper, wants cities in China to quarantine people arriving from abroad for 14 days, Reuters reported.

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“I am worried that there are similar cases to the Guangzhou one existing in other parts of the country," he was quoted as saying. "There were reports previously that people coming back from abroad returned to their homes in Shanghai without any obstacles."