Chinese authorities were reimposing some travel restrictions in the capital Tuesday as they worked to contain a new coronavirus outbreak and prevent it spreading more widely in a country that previously appeared to have largely contained the virus.
As reopenings from Europe to Latin America continued, the resurgence in China highlighted expert calls for vigilance in the fight against the pandemic.
China reported 40 more coronavirus infections on Tuesday, 27 of them in Beijing, bringing the city’s total to 106 since Friday. At least one patient was in critical condition and two were in serious condition.
Many of the recent cases have been linked to Beijing’s Xinfadi wholesale market and authorities have been testing market workers, anyone who visited the market in the past two weeks and anyone who came into contact with either group. Fresh meat and seafood in the city and elsewhere in China was also being inspected on the unlikely chance that was how the virus spread.
Residential communities around the market have been put under lockdown, along with the area around a second market, where three cases were confirmed. In all, 90,000 people are affected in the two neighbourhoods in the city of 20 million.
Authorities are also barring residents of areas considered at high risk from leaving Beijing and those from such areas who have already left must report to local health bureaus as soon as possible. Taxis and car-hailing services have been banned from taking people out of the city and the number of passengers on buses, trains and subways will also be limited and all are required to wear masks.
China had relaxed many of its coronavirus controls after the ruling Communist Party in March declared victory over the virus, which was first detected the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. In response to the new outbreak Beijing suspended Monday’s planned restart of some primary schools and reversed the relaxation of some social isolation measures.
South Korea has also been battling to prevent a resurgence of the virus, reporting 34 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. Half were found in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area where health officials have been scrambling to stem transmissions linked to leisure and religious activities and low-income workers who couldn’t afford to stay home.
Hundreds of recent cases have been linked to nightspots, church gatherings, a huge e-commerce warehouse and door-to-door salespeople amid an erosion of citizen vigilance.
Despite concerns, the Seoul government has so far resisted calls to reimpose stronger social distancing guidelines after they were eased in April, fearing further damage to the fragile economy.
In New Zealand, two cases were detected in people who had travelled to the United Kingdom. Until Tuesday, the country had gone more than three weeks without any new cases and had declared that everybody who had contracted the virus had recovered, aside from the 22 people who died.
Philippine officials, meanwhile, have reimposed a strict lockdown on the central city of Cebu and retained quarantine restrictions in Manila for another two weeks as infections continued to spike.
“The battle with COVID isn’t over,” Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said.
In the United States, Vice-President Mike Pence encouraged governors to highlight the “good news” around efforts to fight the virus despite several states reporting a rise in infections, which could intensify as people return to work and venture out during the summer.
Pence said in a private call with governors that except for a few places, the U.S. is seeing strong drops in virus-related hospitalization and mortality rates. In audio of the call obtained by The Associated Press, Pence urged governors to make it clear to residents that “there’s a lot of really, really good news.”
White House officials have played down the severity of the virus surge in places like Arizona and Texas. On Monday, the nation’s second-most-populated state set a one-day high in hospitalizations of coronavirus patients for the seventh time in eight days. Arizona’s hospitals were at about 82% capacity.
Meanwhile, Germany and France dropped border checks nearly two weeks after Italy opened its frontiers. Greece welcomed visitors Monday with passengers on flights from other European countries not having to undergo compulsory coronavirus tests.
The European Union’s 27 nations and other European states aren’t expected to start reopening to visitors from outside the continent until at least the beginning of July and possibly later.
Spain allowed thousands of Germans to fly to its Balearic Islands without a 14-day quarantine in a pilot program designed to help authorities gauge what’s needed against possible virus flare-ups.