Beijing on Wednesday reported 31 new cases of Covid-19 for June 16, four more than the day before, taking the total number of cases to 137 in six days as city authorities race to contain the fresh cluster of infection with renewed restrictions on travel and public gatherings.
Following the rise in cases, two airports in Beijing have cancelled 1,255 flights, nearly 70 % of all scheduled trips, for June 17, according to state media.
Overall, 44 confirmed cases, including 11 imported cases (10 in Gansu and 1 in Sichuan) and 33 local cases — 31 cases in Beijing, one case in the neighbouring province of Hebei and one more case in eastern China’s Zhejiang province — were reported from mainland China in the past 24 hours, the national health commission (NHC) said in its daily bulletin on Wednesday morning.
Late on Tuesday night, the city government had upped the emergency response level back to the second level from the third, barely two weeks after it had lowered it to the least after the capital reported no new case for almost two months.
The late-night announcement on Tuesday shut down all schools, banned residents from middle and high-risk areas from leaving the city, and suspended all outdoor sports and entertainment activities.
Those who must travel out of Beijing, as per the directive, need to present a negative nucleic acid test result conducted within seven days of departure.
The new cluster, linked to the Xinfadi wholesale food market in the southwest Fengtai district, has spread to nine of the city’s 16 districts and at least 29 localities and streets.
Local officials had already locked down dozens of residential compounds close to the Xinfadi and three other fresh food markets and had ordered more than 30000 restaurants to be disinfected.
Chen Yankai, a deputy director of the Beijing market supervision bureau, was quoted by state media as saying that Beijing has disinfected 276 farm produce markets and closed 11 such underground and semi-underground markets as of 6 Tuesday morning.
About 200,000 people who had visited the Xinfadi market since May 30 were interviewed via door-to-door inquiries, calls, social media platforms and other methods.
State media reported that over 46 percent of 833 flights inbound and outbound flights from Beijing’s airports were cancelled because of the new outbreak.
The “…epidemic situation in Beijing remains grim”, as the city has been reporting a daily double-digit growth in domestically transmitted Covid-19 cases since June 11, Chen Bei, deputy secretary-general of the Beijing municipal government, said Tuesday.
The cluster outbreak is believed to be caused by human-to-human transmission or contamination of articles and environment, Chen said.
According to the official news agency, Xinhua, she stressed that there had been confirmed secondary infections among close contacts.