World

China imposes strict lockdown on nearly half a million people

New cases in Beijing have prompted fears of a resurgence of the coronavirus

BEIJING: China imposed a strict lockdown on nearly half a million people in a province surrounding the capital to contain a fresh coronavirus cluster yesterday, as the authorities warned the outbreak was still "severe and complicated".

After China largely brought the virus under control, hundreds have been infected in Beijing and cases have emerged in neighbouring Hebei province in recent weeks.

Health officials said yesterday that Anxin county - about 150km from Beijing - will be "fully enclosed and controlled", the same strict measures imposed at the height of the pandemic in the city of Wuhan earlier this year.

Only one person from each family will be allowed to go out once a day to purchase necessities such as food and medicine, the county's epidemic prevention task force said in a statement.

TESTING OF MILLIONS

The move comes after another 14 cases were reported in the past 24 hours in Beijing, taking the total to 311 since two weeks ago and spurring the testing of millions of residents.

The outbreak was first detected in Beijing's sprawling Xinfadi wholesale food market, which supplies much of the city's fresh produce, sparking concerns over the safety of the food supply chain.

Nearly a third of the cases so far have been linked to a beef and mutton section in the market, where workers are being quarantined for a month, city officials said yesterday.

Businesses in Anxin county had supplied freshwater fish to the Xinfadi market, state news agency Xinhua reported.

Twelve cases of the coronavirus were found in the county - including 11 linked to Xinfadi, the state-run Global Times reported.

The new cases in Beijing have prompted fears of a resurgence of the virus in China.

The capital has mass-tested wholesale market workers, restaurant workers, residents of medium- and high-risk neighbourhoods and delivery couriers over the past two weeks.

At a press conference yesterday, officials said 8.3 million samples have been collected so far, of which 7.7 million have already been tested.

Testing has now expanded to include all employees of the city's beauty parlours and hair salons, the Global Times said.

Beijing city official Xu Hejian told reporters yesterday "the epidemic situation in the capital is severe and complicated", warning that the city needed to continue tracing the spread of the virus.

City officials have urged people not to leave Beijing, closed schools again and locked down dozens of residential compounds in a bid to stamp out the virus.

SOUTH KOREA

Meanwhile, South Korea reported 62 more cases , raising the total number of infections to 12,715, Xinhua reported.

Small clusters, several of which were linked to gatherings at churches, were a big part of the rise in cases.

Despite this, South Korea said yesterday it will begin allowing limited numbers of spectators at sports games.

The Sports Ministry is expected to hold a meeting this week to discuss the details, Yonhap news agency reported. - AFP

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