Chinese Students Returning Home as Beijing Closes Schools Over Spread of Pandemic to Other Provinces Photo: Aljazeera

COVID-19: Beijing shuts schools, 11 other food markets as virus spreads

* 11 other food markets shut, 300 others sanitised, about 30 housing compounds under lockdown

* New cluster originating from wholesale market tops 100 cases

Web Editor | ConsumerConnect

Following the latest cluster of novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Beijing, China’s cultural, economic and communications centre, and subsequent mass testing for the epidemic, the capital city has ordered all schools to close in an escalation of containment measures as it struggles to halt a fresh virus outbreak fast spreading to neighbouring provinces.

Agency report says the Chinese capital Tuesday, June 16 lifted its emergency response to level two and said that people would have to be tested for the virus before being allowed to leave Beijing.

According to the National Health Commission (NHC), the total reported number of infections has reached 106, while cases linked to the Beijing cluster have already been reported in two provinces in China’s northern region.

Although the decision to close schools and limit people leaving signals the severity of the growing crisis, officials have so far taken a more targeted approach towards the latest outbreak compared to similar resurgences in Wuhan and in the country’s northeast region, report stated.

The stakes are higher in Beijing, where the country’s business and political elite reside, and an aggressive lockdown risks undoing China’s economic re-opening and nascent moves to restart travel with other countries.

Beijing has restricted movement only in areas where new cases have been found. While taxis and cars from ride-hailing apps have been banned from leaving Beijing and passenger buses from some cities in nearby provinces have been halted, trains and most other forms of transport to and from Beijing remain open.

Yanzhong Huang, professor at the Centre for Global Health Studies of Seton Hall University, said the costs of imposing an across-the-board shutdown are too high as Beijing’s population is much larger than that of Wuhan.

“A city-wide lockdown in Beijing would not only reverse the process of economic and social reopening, a key policy objective of the party, but also undermine considerably the government’s own narrative on the success of its anti Covid-19 campaign.

“The social, economic, and political pain might be way too high to justify a city-wide lockdown.”

Beijing on Tuesday closed another food market located near the financial district after a case linked to the original cluster was discovered.

Eleven other food markets have been shuttered and almost 300 others sanitised, while nearly 30 housing compounds have been put under lockdown, local officials said.

Housing compounds and companies are collecting information from their residents or workers on whether they have been to or had contact with anyone who has been to Xinfadi, the fruit and vegetable market where the new cluster was first discovered.

It supplies around 80% of the city’s farm produce and tens of thousands of people pass through daily.

With mass testing and contract tracing underway, the next few days will be crucial in deciding whether to reinstate the strict measures in place during the height of China’s epidemic, when workplaces and restaurants were shut and social gatherings were banned, said the report.

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