A team of experts from the World Health Organization were set to arrive in the Chinese city of Wuhan on Thursday as China reported its first death from Covid-19 in eight months, according to China’s National Health Commission.
Health authorities gave no details about the latest death except that it occurred in Hebei province, the Global times reports.
The government has placed several cities in the province under lockdown.
No deaths have been reported in mainland China since May last year, with the official death toll now standing at 4,635.
As news of the latest death emerged on Thursday, the hashtag “New virus death in Hebei” quickly ratcheted up 100 million views on Chinese social media platform Weibo, AFP reports.
More than 20 million people are under lockdown in the north of China and one province has declared an emergency, as Covid-19 numbers climb after several months of the country reporting only a handful of daily cases.
China had largely brought the virus outbreak under control through a series of strict lockdowns and mass testing. But another 138 infections were reported by the National Health Commission on Thursday – the highest single-day tally since March last year.
Infections are still small compared with many other countries that are seeing record numbers of infections, but Beijing is anxious to stamp out local clusters ahead of next month’s Lunar New Year festival when hundreds of millions of people will be on the move across the country.
Authorities last week launched a mass testing drive and closed transport links, schools and shops in Hebei’s capital city Shijiazhuang – the epicentre of the latest outbreak.
Neighbouring Xingtai, home to seven million people, has also been locked down since last Friday, as have the five million people of Langfang city.
As infections have spread, northeastern Heilongjiang declared an “emergency state” on Wednesday, telling its 37.5 million residents not to leave the province unless absolutely necessary.