Beijing shuts all schools as second wave fears escalate
Beijing has shut all schools in a sharp escalation of containment measures, as fears that new coronavirus outbreaks could develop into a second wave accelerate.
The Chinese capital has suspended on-campus classes for all primary school, middle school and high school students in a bit to stem the rapid spread of new cases, state news outlet The Global Times reported.
Beijing has now hiked its emergency response to level two, meaning people will now have to be tested for the virus upon entering and leaving the city.
Officials have curbed public transport and suspended all outbound taxi and car-hailing services. Some long-distance bus routes between Beijing and nearby provinces Hebei and Shandong have been halted.
Parts of Beijing were fenced off last night, with 24-hour security checkpoints set up around the capital, after more than 100 new cases were diagnosed.
“The epidemic situation in the capital is extremely severe,” said Beijing city spokesman Xu Hejian at a press conference yesterday. “Right now we have to take strict measures to stop the spread of Covid-19.”
Beijing today designated 27 neighbourhoods as medium-risk areas, subjecting residents to temperature checks and registration.
The financial hub of Shanghai demanded some travellers from Beijing be quarantined for two weeks, as 27 new coronavirus cases identified today brought the total number of new cases since Thursday to 106.
Where are the new cases?
New clusters of infection have been traced to a wholesale food market in south-west Beijing that rakes in thousands of visitors a day.
Local media reports said the virus was discovered on chopping boards used for imported salmon, prompting major Chinese supermarkets to pull all fish from their aisles. The market was shuttered over the weekend, and restrictions were placed on nearby neighbourhoods.
More than 8,000 market workers have now been tested and sent to centralised quarantine sites, and around 30,000 restaurants in the city have been professionally disinfected.
For more than seven weeks, Beijing’s robust track and trace system has been able to deal with sporadic new cases from people travelling to the city from abroad. Yesterday, the tracing system was used to contact 200,000 people who had visited the market since the end of May.
All indoor sports and entertainment venues in the capital were shut yesterday. Beijing’s Super League football team were tested and given the week off after their training camp was identified as close to the outbreak.
What have experts said?
New clusters are “always a concern”, said Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organization’s emergencies programme.
“But what we do like to see is an immediate response to that and comprehensive set of measures,” he added.
Since coronavirus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan last year, the country has reported more than 84,000 cases, including over 4,600 fatalities.
Health authorities have now entered “wartime mode” in a bid to prevent new cases from developing into a second wave, according to local media.
Asian stocks tumbled yesterday and oil prices slipped as second wave fears sent investors scurrying for safe-havens.