Authorities in China have imposed shelter-in-place restrictions on close to half a million people near the capital, Beijing, hit by a new increase in novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases since mid-June.
The Asian country has largely managed to curb the pandemic, but the emergence of 300 new cases in the capital in just over two weeks has fuelled fears of a second wave of infections, and authorities there describe the situation as “serious and complex.”
Beijing’s mayor has already launched a vast campaign of testing, closed schools, called on Beijing residents not to leave the capital, and imposed a lockdown on thousands of people in residential areas viewed as high risk.
Local authorities announced on Sunday that a lockdown has been imposed in the canton of Anxin, 60 kms south of Beijing, in the northern province of Hebei.
According to the semi-official Global Times, 11 cases linked to the new wave of the epidemic in Beijing have been detected there.
Only one person per household will now be authorised to leave home once a day to buy food and medicines.
China’s Health Ministry announced on Sunday that 14 new cases had been declared in Beijing over the past 24 hours, bringing the total since the start of the new wave to 311.
The epicentre of the new outbreak is Xinfadi, a wholesale market in the south of the city, where the bulk of the capital’s supermarkets and restaurants buy their fresh produce.
About a third of the new cases reported thus far are linked to the section of the market reserved for beef and mutton, municipal officials said at a press conference on Sunday.
“The epidemic situation in the capital is serious and complex,” Xu Hejian, a spokesman for the city, stressed.
Tests are being run on people who have gone to the market, restaurant employees, delivery staff and people living in high-risk areas.
So far, 8.3 million samples have been collected, and 7.7 million have already been tested, the Mayor’s Office announced on Sunday.
On 19 June, a senior official of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said the new outbreak was under control but Beijing would continue to register new cases.