Friday, September 24, 2021

Beijing on high alert as Covid cases flare up on other cities in China

Chinese capital Beijing is on high alert to stop a flare-up in COVID-19 cases in the city as more Chinese cities have reported cases linked to outbreak in Nanjing from July 20 onwards. Despite the high coronavirus vaccination rate in Beijing and four locally transmitted cases, all flights, trains and buses from China’s current coronavirus high-risk areas to the Chinese capital have been cancelled. Four locally transmitted symptomatic cases have been reported in Beijing so far, all of them with links to the Zhangjiajie outbreak in the central province of Hunan, which has closed to visitors after becoming another Covid-19 hotspot because of infected arrivals from Nanjing. More than 350 people in 27 mainland cities have been infected in the recent outbreak, including confirmation on Monday of seven infections in the central city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected.
Beijing must be “guarded at all costs” with the fastest, strictest measures and most decisive actions, according to a meeting on Sunday chaired by Beijing Communist Party secretary Cai Qi. Anyone from a city with confirmed COVID-19 cases has been banned from entering Beijing and flights, trains and long-haul buses from those places have been halted. A search of booking sites on Monday showed tickets for trains from outbreak areas such as Nanjing and Zhangjiajie were unavailable. China which has been showcasing its containment effort based on the repetitive and massive lockdowns and crushing travel restrictions has been wary of even a small cluster of COVID-19 cases. It cannot afford to have an outbreak more so as it is going to host Winter Olympics in Beijing in February next year, just 6 months far amid calls for boycott from western countries on various issues.
Employees of government agencies and state-owned enterprises have also been banned from travelling to affected cities and agencies must not organize travel for them. Anyone from Beijing who is in one of these cities will not be able to return until they have completed 14 days of health monitoring and a negative coronavirus test 48 hours before boarding a flight or train. Authorities at the meeting also decided that people already in Beijing from cities with medium- and high-risk areas will be tested and their health monitored to “ensure no one is missed”. As per official statistics, in China, more than 1.66 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines had been administered by Sunday, while in capital Beijing, 17.9 million or 82 per cent of its total population have been fully vaccinated.
Nanjing on Sunday ordered that clinics and outpatient care with a high risk of exposure be suspended, including ear, mouth and throat services, dentistry and plastic surgery. Local media reported that the chairman of Nanjing’s Lukou International Airport was removed from his post on July 23 after airport mismanagement was deemed responsible for cleaners catching Covid-19 from a cargo flight in Russia on July 10 and subsequently spreading the virus to other staff and passengers and to residents in inland cities who had no connection with the airport.
Authorities in Nanjing’s Yangzhou have offered a 5,000 yuan (US$775) reward for tip-offs about people who may have been at the mahjong parlours last week or those who may have travelled to the city from medium- or high-risk areas and could have been missed by the control measures. As per reports, the outbreak in Nanjing has expanded so far that some large outbreaks were caused by people who have never been to the Nanjing airport. The outbreak in Wuhan was linked to a worker who waited for a train in Jingzhou, Hubei, with a tourist group from Huaian, Jiangsu. The group were infected after spending several days in Zhangjiajie.

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