In the next five days, the Chinese port city of Qingdao plans to screen some nine million people after 12 locally transmitted cases of coronavirus have been identified, raising fears about a wider epidemic.
Since mid-August, China has been mostly coronavirus free, with all cases recorded by the nation being transported from elsewhere. But Qingdao registered a dozen locally transmitted cases as of October 11, all of which were related to a hospital that handles imported infections, the Municipal Health Commission of the city said in a statement Monday.
At the Qingdao Chest Hospital, which has been put on lockout, mass testing has also been carried out with 114,862 persons, staff and patients, having tested negative as of Monday.
For the whole population of nine million, monitoring will now be carried out citywide, continuing the sort of mass response recently seen in Beijing and other cities across China where clusters of infections have been found.
Those responses have been successful in keeping China's overall infection rate low since the country's initial outbreak was suppressed in March. That has enabled life to return to relative normality, with more than 600 million tourists traveling this month for Golden Week, a national holiday around the Mid-Autumn Festival.
The cluster in Qingdao, a city on the eastern coast home to numerous beaches and popular with tourists, will raise fears of a potential spike in cases related to the holiday.
Authorities in the port city said the specific source of infection was still under investigation.
As of this week, China has recorded 85,578 confirmed cases and 4,634 deaths from the coronavirus, according to the country's National Health Commission.