COVID-19 rebound: Beijing closes all schools in the city

Beijing on Tuesday urged residents to avoid “non-essential” travel outside the city and ordered a new school closure after a rebound in COVID-19 cases in the Chinese capital.

The discovery in five days of 106 patients, linked to a city market, was a shock for the Pekingese. Because China had largely contained the coronavirus by means of quarantine and screenings.

Authorities have eased restrictions in recent months due to the improved situation: only two COVID-19 deaths have been reported since mid-April in the country, where the virus first appeared in late 2019.

But fears of a second epidemic wave in Beijing prompted local authorities to act. The town hall launched a screening campaign, confined residential areas and announced new measures on Tuesday.

The capital called on its 21 million inhabitants to avoid “non-essential” travel outside municipal borders.

“Anyone who really has to leave Beijing will have to provide a certificate attesting to a negative test carried out in the past seven days,” said Chen Bei, the deputy secretary general of the city hall.

Residents of areas classified as “medium or high risk”, that is to say those most affected by COVID-19, are prohibited from leaving the city, she said at a conference of hurry.

The town hall also announced Tuesday a new closure of all schools. Universities must suspend the return of students to classrooms.

“Extremely serious”

“The epidemic situation in the capital is extremely serious,” said Xu Hejian, a spokesman for the municipality, earlier today.

The health ministry said on Tuesday 27 new patients in Beijing.

This renewed contagion started from the huge wholesale market in Xinfadi, in the south of the capital, where the coronavirus was spotted last week on boards used to cut imported salmon. Cases have also been reported in other markets, which are now closed.

In total, the municipality ordered the confinement of nearly 30 residential areas. Their thousands of residents are no longer allowed to leave, but can be resupplied.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it is “monitoring the situation very closely” and mentioned sending additional experts to Beijing.

However, panic has not yet spread to the city, where only nine COVID-19 deaths have been recorded since December, and zero since the discovery of the new outbreak.

City officials have said they want to screen all market vendors, as well as restaurant managers.

Zhao Honglei, the owner of a grocery store, told AFP that its 13 employees had all tested negative.

His customers seemed reassured, but Zhao said online orders have increased tenfold in recent days. “People are afraid of ending up in crowded stores where they could be infected,” he said.

Massive tests

The city of Beijing has increased its daily screening capacity to more than 90,000 people, according to the new China news agency.

Under 36 ° C, many Beijingers equipped with masks were thus waiting Tuesday in a park to be tested, noted the AFP.

“I try not to go too far,” said 57-year-old retiree Wu Yaling, who says she lives near one of the offending markets.

Monday, the town hall had already decided to close the sports and cultural sites. And Chinese cities have announced the quarantine of travelers from Beijing.

The town hall claims to have already disinfected 276 markets and 33,000 restaurants or food businesses. She says she closed 11 markets.

Seven additional residential areas, of the thousands in the city, were also confined on Tuesday. They are added to the 21 already in this case. These measures concern only a tiny fraction of the Pekingese.

More than 8,000 workers in the Xinfadi market, which supplies 70% of the fruit and vegetables consumed in Beijing, were screened and then placed in quarantine.

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