People wearing face masks ride a subway train following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, China January…
People wearing face masks ride a subway train following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, China January 14, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song

China has reported its first COVID-19 death in eight months amid a surge in the northeast as a World Health Organization team arrived in Wuhan to investigate the beginning of the pandemic. 

The death, reported Thursday, raises the country’s death toll to more than 4,600, a relatively low number resulting from the country’s stringent containment and tracing measures.  

China has imposed various lockdown measures on more than 20 million people in Beijing, Hebei and other areas to contain the spread of infections before the Lunar New Year holiday in February.  

The relatively low number of COVID-related deaths in China has raised questions about China’s tight control of information about the outbreak. 

A worker in protective coverings directs members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team on their arrival at the airport in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province, Jan. 14, 2021.

The investigative team arrived Thursday after nearly a year talks with the WHO and diplomatic disagreements between China and other countries who demanded that China allow a thorough independent investigation.  

Two members of the 10-member team were stopped in Singapore after tests revealed antibodies, while the rest of the team immediately entered a 14-day quarantine period in Wuhan before launching their investigation. 

FILE - The Wuhan Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market, where a number of people fell ill with a virus, sits closed in Wuhan, China, Jan. 21, 2020.

The coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan in late 2019 and quickly spread throughout the world, resulting in nearly 2 million deaths and more than 92 million cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.  

Officials said Thursday that infections in the northeastern Heilongjiang province have surged to their highest levels in 10 months, nearly tripling during that period.  

Elsewhere in Asia, Japanese authorities have expanded a state of emergency to stop a surge in coronavirus cases.  

Coronavirus infections and related deaths have roughly doubled in Japan over the past month to more than 310,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

The emergency was initially declared a week ago and was expanded to cover seven new regions. The restrictions are not binding, and many people have seemed to ignore requests to avoid nonessential travel, prompting the governor  to voice concern about the lack of commitment to the guidelines.  

FILE - A lab technician works during research on coronavirus, COVID-19, at Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutical in Beerse, Belgium, June 17, 2020.

The world appears to be on the verge of another effective COVID-19 vaccine. A study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine found that an experimental vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson generated a strong immune response in both young and elderly volunteer participants in early-stage trials.   

Unlike the vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one dose, making it easier to both transport and refrigerate for long periods of time.  The vaccine is currently undergoing late-stage trials involving 45,000 volunteers.  Johnson & Johnson is expected to seek emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sometime next month.  

The company has signed a $1 billion contract with the U.S. government to provide up to 100 million doses of the vaccine once it is granted approval. 

Special Section