Chinese city apologizes over food shortages during lockdown, and other news from around the world.
An official in the northeastern Chinese city of Tonghua, where residents are barred from leaving their homes amid a strict lockdown, apologized to residents who said they had not been receiving enough food.
Tonghua, an industrial city of about two million people in Jilin Province, went into lockdown on Jan. 20 after the number of recent cases grew to nearly 100. Since then the local outbreak has been largely brought under control, with just two new symptomatic cases reported on Saturday.
As China observes the one-year anniversary of the lockdown in Wuhan, the central city where the virus was first discovered, other parts of the country are confronting smaller outbreaks. The government has responded with mass testing and citywide lockdowns that at one point affected more than 28 million people, almost three times the size of the population that was initially locked down in Wuhan.
On Monday, China reported 124 new cases in the previous 24 hours, including 117 local cases and seven among travelers in quarantine after returning from overseas. That is an increase from 80 cases reported a day earlier, though still vastly lower than other large countries. Mainland China, which has a population of 1.4 billion people, has recorded a total of about 100,000 coronavirus cases and 4,635 deaths, according to a New York Times database.
In Tonghua, the tough restrictions on movement have led to widespread complaints, with residents taking to social media to vent and seek help. Jiang Haiyan, a deputy mayor, acknowledged the problems on Sunday, saying that a lack of personnel had hindered the distribution of supplies.
“At present, there are problems of untimely and inadequate distribution of household materials for citizens, which has caused great inconvenience to everyone’s lives,” Ms. Jiang said.
The city’s Communist Party committee and local government “express their sincere apologies to everyone,” she added.
The city had since recruited a large number of community workers and volunteers to ensure adequate supply distribution, Ms. Jiang said.
But on the social media accounts for The People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s main newspaper, some people continued to express dissatisfaction with the situation.
“Before the residents weren’t treated humanely, they didn’t tell us anything and in one night went from house to house sealing everything up,” read one popular reply. “Now grass-roots officials and volunteers are treated inhumanely, and in one night all the food must be distributed door to door.”
Salman Masood and Lin Qiqing contributed reporting.
In other developments around the world:
Australia on Monday approved the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for use among people 16 and older, the country’s first vaccine approval. Vaccinations are expected to start late next month. The announcement came one year to the day after Australia reported its first coronavirus case.
Pakistan is likely to approve the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, officials said. It would be the third to get such approval, joining Oxford University’s AstraZeneca and the Chinese SinoPharm vaccines. Pakistan, which has an approximate population of 212 million, has yet to start its rollout. Dr. Faisal Sultan, the de facto health minister, said last week that one million dosages would be distributed in the first three months of 2021. Trials of the Chinese CanSino vaccine are currently being conducted in the country, and the results are expected in the first week of February, officials said.
Spain registered its worst weekend since it first got hit by the pandemic last March, according to data released on Monday by the country’s health ministry, which showed that there were almost 94,000 new cases since Friday. Spain’s Covid-19 patients now occupy about 40 percent of the beds in the country’s intensive care units, a situation that was described as “critical” on Monday by the director of Spain’s center for health emergencies, Fernando Simón. A handful of Spanish regions announced further lockdown measures on Monday, including northwestern Galicia, which is closing all its restaurants, bars and universities.
The pandemic has inflicted the greatest labor crisis since the Great Depression, Guy Ryder, the head of the United Nations International Labour Organization, said on Monday. Mr. Ryder said the coronavirus has caused a loss of working hours equivalent to some 255 million jobs last year. There is still massive uncertainty about when the global economy will return to pre-pandemic levels of employment, but it won’t be in 2021, the agency said. Its analysis also pointed to the unevenness of the pandemic’s impact, with growth in the finance and I.T. sectors, underscoring the need for a targeted response to the crisis.
After delays, Turkey received 6.5 million more doses of a Chinese-produced coronavirus vaccine Monday morning, the state-run news agency, Anadolu, reported. Turkey was expecting to receive at least 10 million doses of the vaccine in December, and 20 million more in January. But the batches were delayed and the number of doses remained below expectations, an apparent blow to China’s vaccine diplomacy. Turkey has given more than 1.2 million inoculations, according to Health Ministry data, using the CoronaVac shot from the Chinese company Sinovac. Almost 2.5 million people in Turkey are infected with the coronavirus and more than 25,000 people have died, government data shows.
Officials in New Zealand confirmed on Monday a case of the South African variant of the coronavirus in a returned traveler a week after she left hotel quarantine. Officials have said the 56-year-old, who had tested negative twice before being allowed to return home, was probably infected by a fellow returned traveler while in quarantine. People who were at the same hotel have been urged to self-isolate immediately. It is the first case New Zealand has recorded outside quarantine since November. The Australian government announced on Monday a 72-hour suspension of its quarantine-free travel bubble with New Zealand. All travelers from the country would be subject to mandatory hotel quarantine on arrival, the Australian health ministry said.
The presidential election in Portugal on Sunday was marked by record-low voter turnout amid a nationwide lockdown and the country’s highest one-day death toll from the coronavirus. Turnout was about 39 percent, according to the preliminary results, despite an easing of restrictions on movement and an increase in the number of polling stations. In the last presidential election in 2016, turnout was more than 48 percent. On Sunday, officials reported a record 275 coronavirus deaths, one day after reporting 15,333 cases, also a single-day record. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Portugal’s center-right president, was re-elected to a second five-year term with about 61 percent of the vote.