A new outbreak of coronavirus in Beijing has proven to be the most severe since the original epidemic in February. This has led to government officials reimplementing restrictions and rising concerns regarding the efficacy of previous quarantine measures.
Excluding Chinese nationals returning from abroad, Beijing had reported no new locally transmitted cases of the virus for 56 days. However, following an outbreak at Xinfadi, China’s largest wholesale food market, Covid-19 has returned for a second wave with more than 100 new cases in five days. On Saturday 13th June the market was shut, but the sheer size of the area, amassing 277 acres with more than 2,000 stalls, has put the majority of the city at risk. In the two weeks prior to its closure, almost 200,000 people had visited the market. They were tracked down via door-to-door visits and phone calls and told to remain at home until they can be tested.
Chen Bei, the Deputy Secretary General of the Beijing municipal government, announced that the Covid-19 response level would be raised from level 3 to level 2, with level 1 being the highest alert. Entry requirements to middle- and high-risk areas now consist of a temperature and health code check. Some high-risk subdistricts are now under closed-off management, meaning that no one can leave. Health authorities have confirmed that the sealed-off neighbourhoods will be provided with food and medical supplies, but will be shut until further notice.
Non-essential travel has been banned, with essential travel requiring a negative test result up to a week before departure. Visitor traffic has also been limited to 30% in public places such as libraries, art galleries, museums, and parks. On-campus classes at schools and universities have ceased, opting instead for online learning. Whilst companies have been advised to encourage their employees to work from home, essential work and production will continue as normal.
Xu Hejian, a Beijing city spokesman, stated that “the epidemic situation in the capital is extremely severe”. In reimplementing restrictions, authorities hope to limit the spread of the virus which has, so far, infected nine of the city’s 17 districts.