Although the latest increase still remains well below the peaks seen at the height of the outbreak in China early this year, it is the biggest since Aug. 10 and suggests continued COVID-19 risks stemming from overseas travellers coming into the country as the pandemic rages on in other parts of the world.
The National Health Commission (NHC) said in a statement that all new cases were imported infections, 13 of which were in the northwestern Shaanxi province and another 12 in Shanghai.
Mainland China has not reported any local COVID-19 infections since mid-August.
The commission did not offer further breakdowns, but Shanghai’s city government said on Friday that nine of the 12 new patients - all Chinese nationals - flew into the city on a flight from Manila on Sept 16.
Shanghai did not specify which airline operated the flight with those nine patients, but it said in a separate statement that two China Eastern flights connecting Shanghai and Manila has been suspended due to COVID-19 risks. Carriers are ordered to suspend international routes when passengers on one of the flights are confirmed as COVID-19 patients.
The NHC also reported 20 new asymptomatic cases, also up for 14 a day earlier, though China does not classify these symptomless patients as confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The total number of COVID-19 cases for mainland China now stands at 85,255, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634. Reporting by Jing Wang and Brenda Goh; Writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman