Heihe, a small northeastern city of 1.3 million people that lies on China’s side of the Amur river on the border with Russia, reported 26 local cases for Oct 29, a sharp increase from nine on Oct 28 and just one on Oct 27.
“The outbreak has exposed the laxity of mind among some local authorities,” Wu Liangyou, another NHC official, said.
China, especially ports of entry, should strengthen test screening of people of high infection risk and improve monitoring of potential flare-ups, as the virus is still spreading in surrounding countries, Wu told a news briefing.
Surveys and virus sequencing results showed the cluster in Heihe was unrelated to an ongoing outbreak hitting mainly the northwestern parts of China, indicating that there was a new source of virus brought from overseas, Wu said.
Many local infections found in the north and northwest parts of China since Oct 17 could be traced back to a source of virus brought in from overseas, the NHC said last week.
China’s border towns, many with relatively few resources, have tended to suffer more severe disruptions than richer cities amid the outbreaks.
The small southwestern city of Ruili bordering Myanmar has seen its once robust jewellery trade business, a pillar of its modest economy, dampened by some of the toughest virus measures in China due to repeated outbreaks.
In major cities, officials have vowed strict virus curbs for key international events to minimise the risk of imported virus.
To safely host the Winter Olympics Games in February, Chinese athletes and staff supporting the event must receive a vaccine booster shot, while boosters are recommended for foreign athletes but not compulsory, according to a state television report.
China is aiming to complete vaccinating children aged three to 11 by the end of December, excluding those with medical conditions that may render a COVID-19 shot harmful, Wu said.
It has already fully vaccinated about 75.8 per cent of its 1.4 billion population, and is giving eligible adults a booster shot.