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Fresh COVID-19 cases in the provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang in the north-east of the country are displaying different symptoms, suggesting the disease is changing as it moves across the country once more. Dr Qiu Haibo, who is an expert in critical care medicine at the National Health Commission, said the cluster of cases in the cities – which have a combined population of five million – were proving a cause for concern.

This causes a problem, as they don’t have any symptoms

Dr Qiu Haibo

People in the two cities were carrying the virus for longer before becoming symptomatic than cases among the population of Wuhan, to the south, where the disease was first identified towards the end of last year.

In addition, he warned infected patients were taking considerably longer to recover.

Dr Qiu told state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV): “This causes a problem, as they don’t have any symptoms.

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“So when they gather with their families they don’t care about this issue and we see family cluster infections.”

In contrast to previous cases, new patients rarely displayed high temperature, and suffered lung damage rather than across, Dr Qiu said.

Intriguingly, he suggested the mutated strain seemed to have been imported from overseas.

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He did not specify which country he was referring to – but both cities are close to China’s border with Russia, which now has the second-highest number of cases in the world, 317,554, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

They are also close to China’s border with North Korea – although, officially at least, the Hermit State has no cases of COVID-19.

Both Jilin and Shulan, located in the province Jilin, are subject to fresh lockdown restrictions.

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Six officials – one from Shulan and five from Jilin – have been now been dismissed after the emergence of new clusters.

China today opened the annual session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, with 2,000 delegates in attendance.

Chairman Wang Yang pledged to “tell the world about how China, as a responsible major country, has taken firm action and contributed to international cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic”.

The country has faced fierce criticism – not least from US President Donald Trump – for its handling of the pandemic.

Speaking today, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling the $2billion which Beijing has pledged to fight the pandemic “paltry” compared to the hundreds of thousands of lives lost and trillions of dollars of damage.

Mr Pompeo rejected Chinese President Xi Jinping’s claim that Beijing had acted with transparency after the outbreak in China, and said if Xi wanted to show that, he should hold a news conference and allow reporters to ask him anything they liked.

China recorded two new coronavirus cases for May 20, down from five a day earlier, the National Health Commission (NHC) reported today.

One of the new cases was a local transmission, in Shanghai, and one was a so-called imported case involving a traveller from overseas, the commission said in a statement. China also reported one imported case the previous day.

The NHC reported 31 new asymptomatic coronavirus cases, up from 16 a day earlier.

The total number of COVID-19 infections in China to date now stands at 84,063. The official death toll is 4,638.

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