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China's health authorities have reported the country's first coronavirus deaths in more than a year as it battles an increase in cases caused by the Omicron variant.
Officials have vowed to tighten the already-stringent zero-tolerance strategy in a bid to contain the outbreaks, with its method having proven to prevent the large numbers of deaths recorded in other countries.
The number of coronavirus fatalities in the country rose to 4,683 as authorities reported two deaths on Saturday; the first since January 2021.
Both patients were elderly and their deaths were the result of underlying conditions, according to Jiao Yahui, an official with the National Health Commission, per the Associated Press. One of the patients had not been vaccinated against the virus.
China also reported 2,157 new community transitions on Saturday, most of which came from Jilin. In a bid to prevent further spread of the virus the province has imposed a travel ban which requires people looking to travel across borders to get permission from police.
Liu Li, a resident in Changchun city, Jilin, said everyone was ordered inside when a resident in the community tested positive, but said the new lockdown has been okay so far, telling The Guardian she lives a 'normal life'.
"I work when there are tasks for me. If there aren’t any, I talk to my mother, watch TV, or play with my cat," she explained.
If the outbreak is not contained by early April, 35,000 people will test positive, forecasters at Lanzhou University have predicted. State media has said 95% of cases are mild, though 17 million people over the age of 80 in the country are still not fully vaccinated, according to an analysis of vaccine and population data cited by The Guardian. Only 19.7% have had a booster, health authorities said.
Among those who have not been vaccinated is Liu's mother, a cancer patient who has undergone two operations. Liu said her mother 'cannot be vaccinated', explaining the doctor said receiving the protective jab 'should be decided according to our physical condition and living environment.'
Even prior to going into lockdown Liu made sure to take precautions to protect her mother by avoiding crowds and wearing a mask whenever she went out.
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