Daxing residents banned from leaving Beijing due to virus fears
BEIJING All 1.6 million residents in Daxing district were banned from leaving Beijing yesterday as two Covid-19 cases linked to a new British virus variant were found in the Chinese capital.
The pandemic emerged in Wuhan just over a year ago but has been broadly brought to heel in the country, officially killing fewer than 5,000.
The authorities have been swift to stamp out local clusters of cases with lockdowns, mass testing regimes and travel restrictions.
With the Chinese New Year holiday looming, officials had been keen to avoid an outbreak in Beijing.
But a handful of cases have been detected in the capital in recent days, with six more reported yesterday in southern Daxing district.
Officials said that two cases in Daxing were linked to a British variant believed to be a more transmissible form of the virus and were first detected on Sunday.
The cases had "no genetic correlation with previously reported local cases and imported cases in Beijing", the head of the Beijing health authority Pang Xinghuo told reporters, but are "considered to be variants of the new coronavirus discovered in the UK".
All 1.6 million residents of Daxing are barred from leaving Beijing unless they have received special permission from the authorities and tested negative for Covid-19 in the past three days, the district said.
Residents of five neighbourhoods, where the recent cases were detected, were ordered to remain indoors.
Meetings of 50 or more people in the district have been banned, while "weddings should be postponed and funerals simplified", the Daxing government said.
It also ordered all kindergarten, primary and secondary students in the district to study at home.
One of the city's two international airports is located in Daxing.
The latest restrictions in the capital come as the government races to tackle the highest number of cases in nearly a year. China reported 103 new cases yesterday.
The outbreaks, including in neighbouring Hebei province, have put China on high alert for a potential wave of cases ahead of the upcoming holiday.
Officials said they expect around 40 million people a day to travel during this period. - REUTERS