SHANGHAI: Mainland China reported its first Covid-19 deaths in more than a year on Saturday, according to a post on the National Health Commission’s website that said two people died in the northeastern region of Jilin.

China reported only two Covid deaths for all of 2021, the last on January 25.

The country is maintaining a “dynamic clearance” approach, which aims to cut transmission as soon as possible, using stringent measures such as short and targeted shutdowns and quick testing schemes where cases are found.

Jilin, bordering North Korea and Russia, accounts for more than two-thirds of domestic infections in this wave. One of the dead was an elderly person of unspecified age, the other over 60, said Jiao Yahui, a senior official with the National Health Commission. The direct cause of death was their underlying diseases, Jiao told reporters in Beijing, while their Covid symptoms were mild.

More than 95 per cent of the nearly 30,000 people hospitalised with Covid had mild or no symptoms, Jiao said.

The latest deaths raised the toll to 4,638. China reported 2,228 new confirmed coronavirus cases for Friday, down from 2,416 a day earlier.

Of the new cases, 2,157 were locally transmitted, compared with 2,388 a day earlier, with 78pc appearing in Jilin and others found in the southeastern province of Fujian and the southern province of Guangdong, among others.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, stood at 1,823, compared with 1,904 a day earlier. As of Friday, mainland China had confirmed 128,462 cases of confirmed cases.

The first deaths in more than a year quickly caught the social media spotlight. “Two new COVID deaths in Jilin” was a top trending topic on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform, with many expressing a desire for more information on the two victims.

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