China witnesses surge in new travel-related COVID-19 cases, says GlobalData

As China opens up for businesses, the country is witnessing a new surge of travel-related COVID-19 cases in Jilin province in Northern China. The country had successfully kept the new cases in the single digits for a while, but there have been more than 40 new cases in the last five days, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Kasey Fu, Director of Epidemiology at GlobalData, comments: “The numbers may seem low compared to global cases count. However, considering how quickly COVID-19 can spread, its long incubation period and the high asymptomatic rate, this sudden surge is very concerning. If it is not controlled quickly, large scale infections can very easily erupt.”

The Chinese government’s response has been swift. Transportation restrictions have been put in place. Non-essential stores and restaurants have been closed. People have been encouraged to stay in place and self-isolate again.

Detailed information has been made available to the public about the new cases. This information includes movements of the newly infected cases, such as where they worked, lived, shopped, ate and visited for the past two weeks. While this information, if accurate, is certainly useful for determining the persons who needs to be isolated and the areas of the city that need additional surveillance. Nonetheless, privacy rights could be an issue.

Kasey Fu concludes: “It is very important to monitor this surge as China continues to be a harbinger of the pandemic. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) were able to be completely stamped out after the initial outbreak, but COVID-19 is a different disease that has no vaccine yet. It is likely to continue to be part of our lives for an indefinite period.

“The recent new cluster in Jilin, as well as several others that have occurred throughout China, underlines how quickly another outbreak can happen. Public health agencies need to establish strong surveillance and effective contact tracing systems, coupled with easy access to testing to ensure early detection and control over spread of the virus.”

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