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SHANGHAI / BEIJING, Jan 19- China is facing the worst COVID-19 outbreak since March 2020, with a province seeing a record daily increase in cases, while an independent commission studying the global pandemic said China it could have acted more forcefully to stop the initial outbreak.
On Tuesday, the state-controlled Global Times newspaper defended China’s initial handling of COVID-19, saying that no country had experience managing an entirely new virus.
“In retrospect, no country could perform perfectly in the face of a new virus … no country can guarantee that it will not make mistakes if a similar epidemic occurs again,” he said.
China recorded more than 100 new COVID-19 cases for the seventh consecutive day on Tuesday. The country reported 118 new cases on January 18, up from 109 the day before, according to the national health authority in a statement.
Of that total, 106 were internal infections, of which 43 were in Jilin, a new daily record for the northeastern province, and 35 in Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing, according to the National Health Commission.
The Chinese capital itself reported a new case, while Heilongjiang in the north reported 27 new infections.
Tens of millions of people are confined while some northern cities test their populations for coronavirus, amid concerns that undetected infections could spread rapidly during the Lunar New Year celebration, which takes place in a few weeks.
Hundreds of millions of people travel during the holiday, which begins in mid-February this year, as migrant workers return home to see their families.
The authorities have appealed to people to avoid traveling in the run-up to holidays and to stay away from mass gatherings like weddings.
The current outbreak in Jilin was caused by an infected vendor who traveled from neighboring Heilongjiang province, the site of a previous outbreak of infections.
The total number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed infections, dropped to 91 from 115 the day before.
The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in mainland China (excluding Macau and Hong Kong) is 89,454, while the number of deaths was unchanged at 4,635.
An independent commission of experts looking at the pandemic, headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, said on Monday that Chinese authorities could have applied more aggressive public health measures in January last year to slow the initial outbreak.
He also criticized the World Health Organization (WHO) for not declaring an international emergency until January 30.
A WHO team is currently in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the disease was first detected in late 2019, to investigate the origins of the pandemic that has killed millions of people around the world.
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