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China reports 43 new COVID cases

China reported 43 new Covid cases, including four locally transmitted infections in Beijing, health authorities said on Sunday.

The four new locally transmitted coronavirus cases detected in Beijing pushed the total infections in the city during the current outbreak to 13.

The four people, who live in the same residential community in Beiqijia Township located in the northern suburban district of Changping, are all close contacts of previously confirmed cases, the municipal health commission said.

They have been sent to a designated hospital for treatment and epidemiological investigation is underway, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

National Health Commission (NHC) said besides the four infections in Beijing, 39 other cases were reported from different parts of the country. This include 17 imported cases.

Of the new 26 local cases, seven were reported in Inner Mongolia, six each in Gansu and Ningxia, four in Beijing and one each in Hebei, Hunan and Shaanxi, the commission said.

Of the 17 imported cases, eight were reported in Zhejiang, four in Shanghai, and one each in Beijing, Heilongjiang, Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan.

No death from COVID-19 was reported on Saturday, the Xinhua report said.

Beijing effects ‘odd-even’ to fight heavy smog

BEIJING: Bracing for heavy smog, Beijing city will implement the

road rationing scheme

odd-even” from Friday night and suspend schools bracing for heavy smog after the

Chinese capital issued its first red alert

for air pollution this year.

Approved by the municipal government, the red alert is being activated from 8 PM on Friday and is expected to be lifted on December 21 when the air quality in the city improves.

According to the transportation administration commission, the “odd-even” car restriction system determined by the final digit of a vehicle’s license plate is being implemented from Friday night while additional public transportation will be arranged with more buses running for longer.

The commission expects five lakh more trips through metro and other public transportation for the duration of the red alert.

All 44 road construction and maintenance sites have been ordered to halt work, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Older and high-polluting vehicles are strictly banned

as more enforcement forces from environmental protection, transportation and urban management authorities have been dispatched to the streets for inspection.

The city’s education department also ordered all kindergartens, primary schools and private training centres to suspend classes during the red alert, and gave middle schools flexibility to cancel classes if they consider it necessary.

According to an updated emergency response plan for severe air pollution which was released in November and took effect on Thursday, a red alert is issued if the city’s Air Quality Index (AQI) reaches 500.

Four consecutive days of heavy air pollution (AQI reading surpassing 200), including two days of severe air pollution (AQI reading surpassing 300), can also activate a red alert.

Rare family photo of pandas captured on camera in China

BEIJING: In a first, a wild panda mother and her cub were photographed together by an infrared camera in northwest China’s Gansu Province.

“In the photo the panda mother and the cub were looking at each other, which was very sweet,” He Liwen, office director of Baishuijiang National Nature Reserve said.

More than 260 infrared cameras in the reserve have taken many photos over the past two years, but the family photo was a first, he said.

“The camera had more than 3,000 photos in its memory card. I sorted through 600 photos before I came across it. It was taken at 2 AM on October 25,” he said.

The photo shows that the giant panda population is growing steadily in the reserve, said Yuan Fengxiao, head of the reserve administration, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Baishuijiang National Nature Reserve has world’s largest number of wild pandas — 110 out of 132 wild pandas in the province live within the reserve area.

“The cub was about two-months-old. We plan to install more infrared cameras in the area in hope of keeping tracks of the cub’s growth in the years to come,” he said.

China drills Tibet glaciers for climate change research

BEIJING: Chinese scientists have drilled into a glacier in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau to collect nearly 400-metre ice samples for research into climate change.

Under the project led by Yao Tandong, an academician with the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, it took the team 40 days to collect the ice samples from the top of the Dund Glacier.

The scientists took three ice samples with a total length of 396 metres drilling from an altitude of 5,320 metres above the sea level on top of the glacier, and another three samples of 45 metres-long in total from an altitude of 4,950 metres above the sea level, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The samples have been sent to the institute’s lab in Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region.

They also set up a meteorological station at the top of the glacier.

Only the polar regions have more glaciers than the plateau.

Scientists believe glaciers can offer insight into climate changes.

Although they generally believe glaciers on the plateau are melting due to global warming, the glacier appears to have remained stable without any obvious retreating since the first scientific drill by a Sino-America team in 1987, the report said.

China says one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses administered

China on Sunday said it has administered over one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the country.

China has accelerated its pace of free COVID-19 vaccinations for the whole nation since late March and administered a billion doses by Saturday, the National Health Commission (NHC) said.

The NHC, however, did not say how many people had been vaccinated.

So far, a total of 21 COVID-19 vaccines have entered clinical trials in China since last year and the government has granted conditional approval for four vaccines for emergency use, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has granted emergency approval for two Chinese vaccines, Sinopharm and Sinovac. China has also supplied and exported the two vaccines to several countries.

China’s nationwide vaccination campaign is open to people aged over 18. The country has approved the emergency use of domestic inactivated vaccines on people aged 3 to 17.

Detailed policies will be formulated for the inoculation of this age group based on the specific COVID-19 situation, the Xinhua report said.

At least 70 per cent of the target population in China is expected to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of this year, Zeng Yixin, deputy head of the NHC said.

20 terrorists killed in airstrikes on Taliban hideouts: Afghan Army

A total of 20 terrorists were killed as fighting planes struck Taliban hideouts and positions in Ghazi Abad district of Afghanistan eastern Kunar over the past 24 hours, the Afghan Army said on Friday.

Meanwhile, eight terrorists suffered injuries in the air raids over the period, Xinhua reported citing the army‘s statement.

The statement said that security and defence forces would continue to target terrorists elsewhere in the country.

Air raids have also killed six terrorists and injured four others in Chamtal district of the northern Balkh province on Thursday.

Over the past few weeks, Afghanistan has witnessed a surge in violence as the Taliban has intensified its offensive against Afghan forces and civilians with the complete pullback of foreign forces just a few weeks away.

The Taliban now control about half of the 419 district centres in Afghanistan, and while they have yet to capture any of the country’s 34 provincial capitals, said General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As the Taliban seize more territory, the Afghan security forces are consolidating their positions to protect key population centres, including Kabul, he said.