Covid-19: As fresh infections surge, China closes schools, cancels flights
New Delhi: On Thursday when India registered the landmark administration of a billion vaccine doses, China closed several schools and cancelled many flights, fearing a resurgence of the killer virus.
Media reported that China cancelled hundreds of flights, closed schools and ramped up mass coronavirus testing on Thursday to stamp out a new Covid-19 outbreak linked to a group of tourists.
Because Beijing keeps a relentless zero-Covid approach with strict border closures and targeted lockdowns, they have largely eliminated domestic outbreaks. Despite these precautions, China logged a fifth straight day of new infection cases, mostly in northern and north-western areas.
They linked the latest outbreak to an elderly couple, part of a group of tourists, who started in Shanghai before flying to Xi’an, Gansu province and Inner Mongolia. Dozens of cases have since been linked to their travel, with close contacts in at least five provinces and regions, including Beijing.
This fresh outbreak forced local governments into mass testing and closing scenic spots and tourist sites, schools and entertainment venues in affected areas, and also imposed targeted lockdowns of housing compounds.
Some regions, including Lanzhou with a population of four million people in north-western China, have barred their residents from leaving houses unless unavoidable and directed them to carry a negative Covid-19 test certificate.
Airports in the affected regions have cancelled hundreds of flights. Around 60 per cent of flights to the two major airports in Xi’an and Lanzhou have been cancelled.
On Monday, Inner Mongolia said travels in the affected areas were banned and residents barred from leaving their housing compounds. On Wednesday, state-owned tabloid Global Times cautioned that the new infection cases in Inner Mongolia could affect coal imports from Mongolia because of supply chain disruptions.
Altogether 17 new local cases were reported on October 19, up from nine a day earlier, according to the National Health Commission (NHC) data on Wednesday.
They reported the fresh cases in eight cities and administrative divisions, over four for October 18, the bulk of which were in northern and north-western China. They also reported three separate cases in recent days in the south and southwest of China.
Among the cases was one in the capital city Beijing, which is busy gearing up for its hosting of the 2022 Winter Games in February, where officials vowed stringent efforts against the virus.
Three out of the five local cases found this week in Erenhot city, in Inner Mongolia, did not appear to have any connection with infected travellers in other cities but were linked to a case detected on October 13. It is unclear how this person was infected, the media said.