Beijing travelers face restrictions amid spiraling virus cases

Beijing reported 21 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, ten fewer than the day before, as other parts of China imposed restrictions on people entering from the capital.

The city has now logged 158 new infections since June 11 after going nearly two months without recording a single case.

Authorities have raised the capital’s public health emergency response level from three to two. In an effort to stamp out emerging coronavirus hot spots before they grow, authorities have also locked down several residential compounds, launched mass testing and tracing initiatives, and closed certain businesses just days after they had reopened.

The Beijing municipal health commission said on Wednesday in a statement that it had also discovered an additional three suspected cases and six asymptomatic cases on Tuesday.

Beijing’s total cases count is now total 578 while deaths remain at nine.

Also on Wednesday, Gao Fu, head of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the new outbreak may have begun “one month earlier” than the previously suggested period of late May or early June.

At least two dozen Chinese cities and several provinces had imposed new restrictions on travelers from Beijing as of Wednesday morning.

These include the eastern city of Shanghai, which requires visitors from “high-risk areas” to quarantine for 14 days on arrival and take two tests for the virus. Those from “medium-risk areas” must register with authorities within 12 hours. Some 28 neighborhoods and districts in Beijing were considered medium or high risk as of Tuesday night, according to a disease information app operated by China’s cabinet.

Other major urban areas advised travelers from Beijing not to come at all, imposed shorter quarantine requirements, or permitted people to enter normally upon showing a green health code on their smartphones.

Health authorities in Hebei, Liaoning and Sichuan provinces have discovered new coronavirus cases in recent days, all of which are linked to the Beijing wholesale market at the center of the outbreak.

On Wednesday, the health commission of the eastern province of Zhejiang said in a statement on its official WeChat account that a 36-year-old man had fallen ill with COVID-19. He is a longtime businessman at the Beijing market and a resident of the city of Taizhou, about 1,500 kilometers from the capital.

Workers in industries hit by Beijing’s initial coronavirus outbreak reacted wearily to the new restrictions.

A theater management professional surnamed Luo said the measures had again delayed two performing arts projects at major Beijing venues that were originally slated to take place in March or April, but were postponed during the previous outbreak.

While Luo’s job remains secure, “many friends don’t have that stability and will fall into financial difficulty again,” she said. Luo declined to give her full name as her company has not authorized her to speak to the media.

Schools across the capital, many of which have been gradually reopening since March, reverted to online classes on Wednesday morning.

Amid speculation about the outbreak’s impact on China’s grueling high school and college entrance exams, a spokesman for the municipal education commission said schools should “make dual preparations for both online and offline learning” for the coming semester, state news agency Xinhua reported.

As of the end of Wednesday, the virus had infected 84,903 people in China and claimed 4,645 lives, according to figures published Thursday by the National Health Commission.

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