(Natural News) Beijing reported a decline in new coronavirus cases on June 18 as authorities tightened restrictions in the capital in an effort to contain a new outbreak. Health authorities in Beijing logged 21 new coronavirus cases, down from 31 on June 17.
Tianjin and Hebei, both of which border the capital, also reported new coronavirus cases. No new deaths were reported.
A total of 158 people have been infected since last week in the latest outbreak, which is linked to the sprawling Xinfadi market in the city’s southwest district. The market has since been shuttered.
People in close contact with those infected were traced to address possible transmission quickly. In addition, authorities ordered anyone who has been near the market, as well as their close contacts, to quarantine for 14 days and get tested twice. The city has also ramped up testing and rolled out measures to prevent and control infections.
Borders close as city declares emergency
Local officials have closed the city’s borders to all confirmed cases, suspected cases, patients with fever and close contacts. Both international and domestic travel to and from the capital are barred, and foreign diplomats from abroad are required to self-quarantine for at least two weeks. Beijing’s two major airports – Beijing Capital and Beijing Daxing – have scrapped over 1,200 flights as of June 17, with other flights rescheduled to later dates.
The city has shuttered all indoor public venues, including clubhouses and party rooms. Authorities have also placed Fengtai district, where the market is located, under lockdown, ordering offices, restaurants, schools and hotels in the area to be shut down. (Related: Chinese authorities hid the fact that medical staff in coronavirus-hit city were infected.)
The Communist Party of China (CPC) has described the situation as “extremely grave.”
“This has truly rung an alarm bell for us,” said Cai Qi, a senior member of the CPC, in a meeting of Beijing’s Communist Party Standing Committee.
Better prepared to handle new cases
Officials in other provinces have similar containment measures in place. For example, local officials in Macau said that people who had traveled to Beijing would be observed in a government facility for symptoms.
“We are now responding to outbreaks with a calmer attitude,” a senior official in Guangdong told the Financial Times. “We have gained some experience and now it’s just a matter of following procedures: sending out notices, tracking people from high-risk areas and getting companies to pay more attention.”
Back in Beijing, the government has placed community workers at gates of residential compounds following the new outbreak. Malls and restaurants in the city have started to require customers to wear masks again, as many residents have stopped wearing them outside.
Economists are closely monitoring the developments in China’s capital.
“In view of the recent Beijing outbreak, we expect China’s precautionary measures, such as quarantine requirements and travel restrictions, to persist for an extended period,” added Serena Zhou, an economist at Mizuho Securities.
The country’s central bank, however, has tightened its monetary stance in recent weeks. According to Yi Gang, governor of the People’s Bank of China, the country’s financial markets remain stable. The latest outbreak could force policymakers to rethink their stance to stimulate economic growth.
China now has 84,494 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 4,638 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. While cases in Beijing pale in comparison to other cities like Paris or New York, the government has raised its emergency warning to its second-highest level to prevent a crisis in China’s political hub.
An outbreak in Beijing – the seat of the CPC – not only is embarrassing for the party, according to experts, but it also puts the country’s narrative of having controlled the outbreak into question.
Pandemic.news has more on the ongoing Wuhan coronavirus.