Beijing tightens quarantine rules for overseas travellers as China reports two-fold increase in new coronavirus cases

People wearing protective masks walk in a park in Beijing on March 23, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Beijing's city government is further strengthening quarantine rules for individuals who arrive in China from overseas, as the Chinese capital seeks to minimise coronavirus-related risks, Beijing Daily reported on Tuesday (March 24).

The paper, the official publication of the city's Communist Party organisation, said all people entering the Chinese capital will be subject to centralised quarantine and testing for the coronavirus.

The report also said those who enter the city and have travelled from overseas to China in the past 14 days will also be subject to centralised quarantine and testing for the coronavirus, which has killed nearly 3,300 and infected nearly 82,000 in mainland China.

The move came as mainland China saw a doubling in new coronavirus cases, driven by a jump in infected travellers arriving from abroad, while more locally transmitted cases crept into its daily tally, including one in the central city of Wuhan.

China had 78 new cases on Monday, the National Health Commission said, a two-fold increase from a day earlier.

Of the new cases, 74 were imported infections, up from 39 a day earlier.

The Chinese capital was the hardest-hit, with a record 31 new imported cases, followed by southern Guangdong province with 14 and the financial hub of Shanghai with nine.

The total number of imported cases in China stood at 427 as of Monday.

Beijing has imposed tough screening and quarantine protocols, and has diverted all incoming international flights to other Chinese cities, but that has not stemmed the influx of Chinese nationals, many of whom are students returning home from virus-hit countries.

The number of local infections from overseas arrivals - the first of which was reported in the southern travel hub of Guangzhou on Saturday - remains very small.

On Monday, Beijing saw its first case of a local person being infected by an international traveller arriving in China.

Shanghai reported a similar case, bringing the total number of such infections to three so far.

Meanwhile, of China's four new locally transmitted infections on Monday, one was in Wuhan, the capital of central Hubei province. This follows five days of no new infections in the city, the epicentre of the outbreak in China.

Guangdong reported on Monday a local case linked to an infected individual from Hubei.

Policymakers are conscious of the potential social instability and economic disruption that a new wave of infections could cause, especially in Hubei, where factories and businesses are only just starting to resume.

A private survey on Tuesday suggested that a 10-11 per cent contraction in first-quarter gross domestic product "is not unreasonable".

Many Chinese say they remain worried about the possibility of a new wave of infections as more people return to work as severe travel restrictions are eased with slowing infections.

They are also cautious of spending too much, concerned about job security as the economy slows.

The epidemic has hammered all sectors of the economy - from manufacturing to tourism.

To persuade businesses to reopen, policymakers have promised loans, aids and subsidies.

In Beijing, the city is reopening the Badaling section of the Great Wall, an infamously crowded part of the Unesco World Heritage Site.

In the impoverished province of Gansu, government officials are each required to spend at least 200 yuan (S$41.06) a week to spur the recovery of the local catering industry

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