China: Beijing closes schools as coronavirus resurgence sparks partial lockdown

16 June 2020, 18:13

A fresh wave of coronavirus cases has forced Beijing authorities to shut schools
A fresh wave of coronavirus cases has forced Beijing authorities to shut schools. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Schools in China's capital Beijing have been closed again after more than 100 people in the city tested positive in recent days.

Officials in the city announced the suspension of primary and secondary schools as well as introducing a restriction on travelling from the city without a test.

There are fears a second wave of Covid-19 could emerge if cases begin to rise exponentially.

The new cases forced Beijing's city government to raise its coronavirus emergency response level from level two to level three, according to state media.

Reports suggest people are being advised not to leave the capital unless necessary and they are being encouraged to work from home.

The city's officials have reportedly told people in high-risk areas not to leave their residential compounds.

Although nurseries, primaries and secondaries are to shut from Wednesday, there has been no update on universities.

Flights in and out of Beijing Capital International Airport and Beijing Daxing Airport have been grounded.

Read more: Fears of 'second coronavirus wave' following 50 new cases in Beijing

Meanwhile, residents are being told to wear face masks in crowded and enclosed places, China's state-run newspaper the Global Times has said.

Roughly one hundred medical workers from 19 local hospitals have been deployed since Monday to aid the capital's Ditan Hospital, which was designated for Covid-19 patients, amid the city's fresh wave of cases.

The newspaper said those who have to leave Beijing need to hold a negative coronavirus test certificate within seven days of departure.

Travelling in groups between provinces has been banned, while public places such as libraries, museums, art galleries and parks will limit visitor flow to 30 per cent of their full capacities.

The Beijing Municipal government confirmed the new outbreak began in Xinfadi market and was caused by human-to-human transmission.

About 9,000 workers at the market had been tested previously.

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Parts of Beijing have introduced partial lockdowns in order to combat the fresh wave of cases
Parts of Beijing have introduced partial lockdowns in order to combat the fresh wave of cases. Picture: PA

78 of the 106 new infections are in the city's Fengtai district, while nine out of 16 districts in the capital found infections, according to Beijing's Centre for Disease Control.

A government official said "decisive and strict measures will be taken to contain the spread" of coronavirus, according to the Global Times.

However, the partial lockdown does not reflect what happened in Wuhan where, on 23 January, all flights, trains and roads were sealed off at the same time with only six hours' notice.

In Beijing, roads are still open and people can leave their home if they have a negative Covid-19 test from within the last seven days.

The new outbreak appears to be the biggest since Beijing largely stopped its spread at home more than two months ago.

Chinese authorities locked down a third area in the capital Beijing as the country reported 40 more coronavirus infections nationwide on Monday. Of those, 27 were recorded in the capital.

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Residents of Beijing who use public transport will need to wear face masks
Residents of Beijing who use public transport will need to wear face masks. Picture: PA

At least one patient is in a critical condition and two are in serious condition. Four cases were also reported in neighbouring Hebei province, with three linked to the Beijing outbreak.

The initial spread happened among market workers, according to Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

He told state broadcaster CCTV that authorities detected the outbreak early enough to be confident they can contain it.

"For those who were infected, they will start showing symptoms either tomorrow or the day after tomorrow," he said.

"So, if there's no sharp increase of newly reported cases tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, the outbreak this time will basically stay at the current scale."

Authorities locked down seven residential compounds in Beijing's Xicheng district, where the first case was confirmed on Thursday. They also barred residents of areas considered high-risk from leaving Beijing and banned taxis and car-hailing services from taking people out of the city.

The number of passengers on buses, trains and subways will also be limited and all are required to wear masks.

Fresh meat and seafood in the city and elsewhere in China is also being inspected, though experts have expressed doubt the virus could be spread via food supplies.

Nonetheless, Chinese media reports said that salmon had been pulled from shelves in 14 cities including Beijing after the virus was found in a sample taken from a salmon chopping board at Xinfadi market.

The market has been closed for disinfection, as has a second market where three cases were confirmed. Residential communities around both have been placed under lockdown, affecting 90,000 people in a city of 20 million.

China had relaxed many of its coronavirus controls after the ruling Communist Party declared victory over the virus in March. The infection was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.