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China reports jump in number of asymptomatic coronavirus cases

BEIJING: Mainland China reported 39 new coronavirus cases as of Sunday, up from 30 a day earlier, and the number of asymptomatic cases also surged, as Beijing continued to struggle to extinguish the outbreak despite drastic containment efforts.

The National Health Commission said in a statement yesterday that 78 new asymptomatic cases had been identified as of the end of the day on Sunday, compared with 47 the day before.

Imported cases and asymptomatic patients, who show no symptoms but can still pass the virus to others, have become China's chief concern in recent weeks after draconian containment measures succeeded in slashing the overall infection rate.

Hubei province, the original epicentre of the outbreak, accounted for almost half of the new asymptomatic cases, the provincial health authority said.

A total of 705 people with asymptomatic cases were under medical observation around mainland China.

The surge in asymptomatic cases, which China began reporting only last week, poses a worry as the Hubei provincial capital of Wuhan prepares to allow people to leave the city on April 8 for the first time since it was locked down in late January.

Hubei began easing travel curbs late last month, part of China's wider effort to get the economy back on track even as it tries to prevent a second wave of infections.

REVOKED

Wuhan officials revoked the "epidemic-free" status of 45 residential compounds due to the emergence of asymptomatic cases and for other unspecified reasons, according to a report yesterday by the official Xinhua news agency.

"Epidemic-free" status allows people living in a compound in Wuhan to leave their homes for two hours at a time.

Mainland China has reported a total of 81,708 cases, with 3,331 deaths.

In a separate development, South Korea reported fewer than 50 new cases for the first time since its peak in late February.

The Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said there were 47 new infections as of midnight on Sunday compared with 81 recorded a day earlier, taking the national tally to 10,284. The death toll rose by eight to 191.

South Korea has been bringing the epidemic under control, with about 100 or fewer new daily cases for the past month, but this was the first time the daily tally of new cases was less than 50 since 909 were reported on Feb 29. - REUTERS

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