China Fortifies Beijing as Covid Outbreak Continues to Swell
(Bloomberg) -- Chinese authorities are ring-fencing Beijing against growing Covid-19 outbreaks now permeating more than half the nation’s provinces, seeking to protect the capital as it gears up to host top political leaders next week and the Winter Olympics in less than 100 days.
The country’s state-owned rail operator said on Wednesday they suspended ticket sales for trains departing from 123 stations in 23 locations that reported coronavirus infections. Previously, Beijing’s municipal government all but barred people visiting the city from areas reporting Covid cases.
The escalating restrictions come after the number of infections in the capital rose persistently over the past few days and are now nearing 40. The outbreak, powered by the more infectious delta variant, has reached 19 out of 31 mainland provinces, the broadest spread in China since the virus emerged in Wuhan in late 2019.
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While the number of infections may seem low compared to outbreaks in the rest of the world, China’s tolerance for the virus is much less. It’s meticulously applying a Covid Zero approach, working to eradicate the pathogen wherever possible.
Officials in the world’s second largest economy initiate mass testing, contact tracing, and strict lockdowns for each new flare-up, even if it involves a single infection. The rest of the world, including places like the U.S. and U.K. that are still reporting tens of thousands of cases everyday, has started to lift travel bans and open up.
In Beijing, some major museums, cinemas, parks, and libraries have halted operations. While the government hasn’t officially closed public venues, authorities have urged residents to curtail public gatherings and avoid crowded places.
While Beijing has seen bigger outbreaks in the past, the latest resurgence comes just days ahead of a major summit for the ruling Communist Party, which will lay the groundwork for extending Xi Jinping’s term as leader.
The travel restrictions have also stopped some Beijing residents from returning home. The snafu occurred in part because an electronic system barred them from booking train or plane tickets since the capital was considered a location where Covid was spreading. The municipal government apologized for the blip, but later asked Beijing residents traveling or overlapping elsewhere with confirmed Covid cases to delay their return.
Meanwhile, a teacher’s infection earlier this week prompted city officials to order snap lockdowns of two schools and the suspension of in-class teaching at 16 other educational institutions as they sought to prevent outbreaks among teenagers and young children.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.