BEIJING • The Chinese authorities cancelled hundreds of flights, closed schools and ramped up mass testing yesterday to try and stamp out a new Covid-19 outbreak linked to a group of tourists.
China has kept a relentless zero-Covid approach with strict border closures and targeted lockdowns, even as other countries tentatively try to ease restrictions.
Domestic outbreaks have largely been eliminated, but as China logged a fifth straight day of new cases - mostly in northern and north-western areas - the authorities beefed up controls.
The latest outbreak was linked to an elderly couple, part of a group of tourists. They started in Shanghai before flying to Xi'an, Gansu province, and Inner Mongolia.
Dozens of infections have since been linked to their travel, with close contacts in at least five provinces and regions, including the capital Beijing.
In response, local governments have rolled out mass testing and closed scenic spots and tourist sites, schools and entertainment venues in affected areas, and also imposed targeted lockdowns of housing compounds.
Some regions including Lanzhou - a city of some four million people in the north-west - have told residents not to leave the area unless necessary. Those who need to leave must present a negative Covid-19 test.
Airports in the affected regions have cancelled hundreds of flights, according to data from aviation tracker VariFlight. Around 60 per cent of flights to the two main airports in Xi'an and Lanzhou have been cancelled.
Alxa Left Banner, a small administrative division in Inner Mongolia, said late on Wednesday that it had imposed a lockdown and would test its population of 180,000. Officials in Erenhot said travel in and out of the city was banned and residents should not leave their housing compounds.
The lockdowns, however, are still small compared with that early last year in the much larger, denser city of Wuhan.
Meanwhile, there were 13 new domestic cases reported yesterday, China's National Health Commission said.
The latest cluster has reached Beijing, and the neighbouring Hebei province, where officials pledged stringent measures against the virus as they stepped up preparations for the Winter Olympics in February next year.
The one local case reported in Beijing - on Tuesday - was the capital's first since August.
Hebei's Xingtai city, about a six-hour drive from Zhangjiakou city, which will co-host the Games with Beijing, reported two local asymptomatic cases, which China classifies separately from confirmed infections, for Wednesday.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS