Beijing tightens Covid-19 curbs as cases detected across capital

People wearing protective face masks ride on a subway train in Beijing on Dec 25, 2020.
People wearing protective face masks ride on a subway train in Beijing on Dec 25, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS, XINHUA) - Beijing has tightened Covid-19 curbs over concerns that China’s mass travel during the holiday period could cause cases to spike in the capital, as it reported locally transmitted cases for a fourth straight day on Sunday (Dec 27).

A meeting led by the capital’s Communist party boss, Mr Cai Qi, urged all districts in Beijing to enter an emergency mode, sealing off residential compounds and villages where infections are found.

Shunyi district, where all the recent coronavirus cases have been reported, has declared a wartime mode and testing for all its 800,000 people. All the cases reported on Saturday were close contacts of previous cases.

Chaoyang district, which neighbours Shunyi, has finished testing 234,413 people in three neighbourhoods, with none testing positive. People who have not received their test results are not allowed to go out, the district government said.

Some residential compounds in Tongzhou have reimposed temperature checks upon entry and the number of entrances have been reduced, according to local media reports.

Shunyi's executive deputy district chief Zhi Xianwei said the district activated an emergency response plan, doing epidemiological surveys, source tracing, nucleic acid testing, community management, and environmental disinfection.

China has largely brought the coronavirus under control but sporadic cases are resurfacing in a small number of cities.

Authorities plan to vaccinate 50 million people in high-risk groups before the week-long Lunar New Year holidays from Feb 11, said state media Global Times.

Beijing has asked its civil servants to stay in the city from Jan 1 until the holiday and asked the public to avoid unnecessary travel during the period.

Public venues such as theme parks and churches have scaled back operating hours. Some Catholic churches in Beijing, including Wangfujing’s Catholic Church, have stopped admitting churchgoers and halted group activities, the archdiocese of Beijing said on its website.

The Chinese mainland reported 22 newly confirmed Covid-19 cases, including 12 locally transmitted cases and 10 arriving from outside the mainland, the National Health Commission said on Sunday.

Seven of the locally transmitted cases were reported in north-east China's Liaoning province, while five were reported in Beijing, the commission said in its daily report.

No new suspected cases or deaths related to the disease were reported on Saturday.

Meanwhile, China’s aviation regulator said on Sunday that the suspension of flights to and from the United Kingdom would last until Jan 10.

The regulator’s announcement came after the foreign ministry said China would suspend direct United Kingdom flights over fears of a new strain of the coronavirus.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases on the mainland reached 86,955 by Saturday, and 4,634 had died as a result of the virus, according to the National Health Commission.