China’s National Health Commission said on Friday that more than 1,000 people nationwide were being treated for Covid-19, a day after the country reported its first coronavirus death on the mainland since May.
The commission said that 144 new cases had been recorded on Thursday, the highest daily figure since a series of new outbreaks began at the end of last year.
Of 1,001 total patients in China, the commission said, 26 were reported to be in serious condition. While the toll remains far lower than in other countries, the surge is challenging the government’s much-touted success in wresting the coronavirus under control.
Hebei, the northern province surrounding Beijing that has been hardest hit in the latest surge, reported 90 more cases on Thursday. New outbreaks have also appeared in the central province of Shaanxi and in Guangxi, a southern province that borders Vietnam.
The new outbreaks suggest that the virus is once again spreading widely despite the measures China has taken, including electronic monitoring and new lockdowns. More than 28 million people have been ordered to remain inside their homes — more than the number affected last January when the central government locked down Wuhan, the city where the virus was first reported.
The National Health Commission reported that nine of the 144 cases recorded on Thursday involved people returning to China, but most of the new ones have spread domestically.
In Shijiazhuang, a city of 11 million people where residents have been ordered to stay home since last week, the authorities have scrambled to build a large quarantine center in a rural district. The facility, which covers 82 acres, will ultimately have 3,000 trailer-like units, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday that it would allow a British scientist from the World Health Organization who had been stuck in Singapore to enter the country, after the scientist tested negative for coronavirus antibodies. The scientist is part of a team of experts from the health agency who arrived in the central city of Wuhan on Thursday to begin hunting for the source of the virus. Two members of the team — the British scientist and another from Qatar — were unable to enter because they had tested positive for coronavirus antibodies. The other 13 members are undergoing two weeks of quarantine in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged in late 2019.
In other developments around the world:
France strengthened border controls and extended a curfew to the entire country to keep the coronavirus in check, and the authorities warned that new restrictions are possible in the coming days if the epidemic worsens. For at least 15 days starting Saturday, everyone will have to be home and shops will have to close by 6 p.m., barring certain exceptions.
Britain on Friday started barring arrivals from Latin American countries and Portugal over fears of a coronavirus variant first detected in Brazil.
Greece’s conservative government said it would establish a dedicated police force for public transport in Athens following a series of violent altercations regarding masks. The most serious was captured on a security video and shows two young men who had refused to wear masks repeatedly kicking a 53-year-old station master in the head and the back, breaking his nose, jaw and ribs.
Thailand’s national tourism authority has named six resorts that are offering “golf quarantine” packages under a December law that allows foreigners who meet certain requirements to spend their mandatory two-week quarantine on the links. The agency said this week that Thailand “remains a golfer’s paradise even during the Covid-19 pandemic.”