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Anhui, Liaoning go all out to contain virus outbreak

By WANG XIAOYU in Beijing and ZHU LIXIN in Hefei | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-05-18 07:54
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Students receive COVID-19 vaccinations at Anhui University in Hefei, Anhui province, on Monday. [Photo by Chen Sanhu/for China Daily]

A number of officials and grassroots doctors in two provinces that are battling COVID-19 infections have been held accountable for a lack of vigilance regarding the novel coronavirus and poor compliance with standard diagnosis procedures, according to local governments.

Since the outbreak was first detected in the eastern province of Anhui on Thursday, seven confirmed cases have been reported there and 13 in Liaoning province as of 7 pm on Monday. Experts said these cases are linked and the outbreak likely stems from Liaoning's port city of Yingkou.

Local governments have urged speeding up epidemiological investigation and mass testing to identify all cases and pinpoint the source of the outbreak.

The governments have also called attention to possible common shortcomings in local disease control work.

According to a circular released on Sunday evening by health authorities in Lu'an, Anhui, a medical practitioner at a community-level health clinic, surnamed Ou, violated rules and received the first reported case of the current outbreak at a toy store managed by his wife. Local public security officials have taken over the case.

Later, a private hospital treating the case failed to implement standard pre-examination and assessment procedures, as well as proper isolation and testing measures, which resulted in "the severe consequence of virus spreading", the circular said.

The hospital and the health clinic have been ordered to cease operating and medical workers involved have been barred from practicing for a year. Local officials responsible for the incident have been suspended or required to reflect deeply on their mistakes, it said.

Since the initial wave of the epidemic was brought under control earlier last year in China, the National Health Commission has urged community-level health institutions to remain cautious to prevent flare-ups of the virus. They have required grassroots doctors to meticulously register patients with fever, report them to local health authorities within an hour and to promptly guide suspicious cases to designated fever clinics.

Wang Wensong, vice-mayor of Hefei, Anhui's capital, said at a news conference on Monday that the city has stepped up efforts to guarantee all patients visiting fever clinics are given nucleic acid tests, and to forbid medical facilities that lack designated fever clinics-especially community-level, rural and private clinics-from receiving patients with fever.

Meanwhile, Liaoning's disease control task force said on Sunday that an investigation into the outbreak has exposed weak supervision and poor enforcement of treatment protocols.

Information released by the Liaoning government shows that one of the earliest cases involved a patient who visited a private clinic in Yingkou's Bayuquan district complaining of a sore throat on May 3. Over the next few days, the patient was given an intravenous drip four times, but the clinic failed to report any of this to higher authorities.

The patient traveled to Anhui on May 9 and was confirmed on May 13 to be infected with the virus.

The Liaoning government said the clinic has been shut down and its manager's license to practice has been revoked. A number of officials were warned about their negligence.

All private clinics in Bayuquan were temporarily closed from Sunday in order to prevent cross infection between patients with fever and to cut off transmission of the virus.

The resurgence of the virus also triggered a run on vaccinations. Anhui vaccinated about 1.19 million people on Sunday, and about one in five people there had received at least one dose, Dong Mingpei, deputy director of provincial health commission, said on Monday.

He added that the province is now able to give nearly 1.3 million vaccinations a day.

As of Sunday, China had administered nearly 407 million doses of the vaccine, the National Health Commission said.

Wu Yong in Shenyang contributed to this story.

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