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China reports 96 new coronavirus cases nationwide

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Chinese health authorities reported 96 coronavirus cases nationwide on Sunday as the country continues efforts to rein in a new outbreak.

Fifty-nine out of the 96 new cases were confirmed in Hebei, the Northern Province surrounding Beijing, where a flare-up in the provincial capital Shijiazhuang has prompted lockdown measures and the mass testing of its over 10 million residents.

In Shijiazhuang, the three-day testing blitz that concluded on Saturday evening produced a total of 354 positive nucleic acid test results, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

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Local authorities in Shijiazhuang say they will soon roll out a second round of citywide screening to track down all potential infections.

All rail and bus links servicing Shijiazhuang and Xingtai, another Hebei city that has experienced a spike in cases, have been severed.

Private vehicles have also been blocked from leaving the cities, with all taxis, urban bus services, and Shijiazhuang metro lines suspended.

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Chinese experts have been quick to blame as yet indeterminate foreign source for the outbreak, according to the government-run Global Times, which reports that gene sequencing and antibody tests suggests it “could have been imported from abroad via airports’’.

Three Hebei officials have faced punishment for failing to reel in the virus’s spread earlier, after a state media commentary censured the provincial government for being ill-prepared and lacking transparency.

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