Schools Shut in Beijing as Coronavirus Flares

Beijing raised its level of health alert to the second highest on Tuesday, ordering schools to close and urging people to work from home as China’s government pressed to extinguish a spike in coronavirus infections menacing the capital.

The city announced the intensified health emergency footing late in the day, after having revealed that medical authorities confirmed another 27 infections from the virus, creating a total of 106 cases since last week, all traced to the sprawling Xinfadi wholesale food market in the city’s south.

“Epidemic trends in Beijing are very grim,” Chen Bei, a deputy secretary-general of the Beijing government, said at a news conference announcing the upgraded emergency response. She said that the new plethora of measures to halt infections were not intended to strangle economic life.

“A level two response doesn’t require stopping production and work,” she said. “It’s encouraging remote and flexible work.”

City officials face intense pressure to stop the new outbreak. After the pandemic spread from central China from late last year, Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, made defending Beijing from mass infections a priority. The capital is a nerve center of Chinese Communist Party rule, and a crowded, restless metropolis with more than 21 million inhabitants.

“Make containing the outbreak the most important and urgent task for now,” Cai Qi, the Communist Party secretary of Beijing, and a protégé of Mr. Xi, said at a meeting of officials on Monday. “Adopt the most resolute, decisive and strictest measures.”

Even so, the decision to raise the level of alert and shut schools was a potentially embarrassing and disruptive reversal for the government. Beijing had lowered its alert level for public health threats just 10 days earlier. Many grades had restarted over previous weeks, while others were just about to resume when this outbreak prompted authorities to postpone a restart.

In recent days, Beijing had already reinstated some anti-epidemic controls. Taxis had been ordered not to leave the city, and restaurants had been ordered to cancel banquets. A lockdown of residents in dozens of neighborhoods close to infection hot spots — preventing them from leaving their housing compounds or receiving visitors — expanded on Tuesday to cover seven more neighborhoods in the west of Beijing.

The new level of vigilance announced Tuesday will make these restrictions stricter, broader and more urgent. In recent days, Chinese disease experts have said the burst of infections in Beijing was worrisome but controllable.

Elementary and secondary schools, which had been gradually returning students to class rooms, must close again — a step likely to disappoint many parents who must supervise online learning. University and college students who had been preparing for a return to classes must stay away.

Museums, parks and libraries will not shut entirely, but must sharply limit numbers of visitors. Sports grounds for basketball, soccer and other physical activities that are usually open to the public must close. Tour groups to other parts of China will stop. Old age homes, psychiatric hospitals and other vulnerable facilities will be sealed from visitors.

Travel to and from Beijing may also be impeded. “Don’t leave Beijing unless it’s essential,” Ms. Chen said.

Officials have used the tracking tools honed over China’s months of fighting the pandemic to find people who visited the Xinfadi market.

Still, the cases clustered in one of the city’s most important sources of food appears to have alarmed officials that stall holders, suppliers and vendors could scatter the virus across the city.

At the news conference on Tuesday, city officials released details of the 27 latest cases, revealing that seven of the infected people worked in restaurants, preparing food or serving diners.

The new restrictions and general anxiety about the outbreak in Beijing have underscored how even limited outbreaks of new infections could frustrate efforts to return to normal in China and other countries.

  • Updated June 16, 2020

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?

      Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

For residents of Beijing, the rising alarm has created a reversal of roles. For months, they learned to look warily on any visitors who might bring the virus into the city and spread infections.

Now, they are the potential targets of monitoring, quarantine and suspicion across China after the burst of more than 100 infections in the capital since last week.

Dozens of cities and provinces across China have in recent days stepped up monitoring and quarantine measures for people from Beijing.

Harbin, a city in northeast China, ordered that all arrivals from Beijing go into “centralized quarantine” — which usually means confinement to an assigned hotel or dormitory room — while they undergo two nucleic acid tests to check if they have the virus.

At least one city, more or less signaled that all people from Beijing should stay away.

“From today individuals coming from Beijing to Daqing, an oil-producing city in the northeast, must undergo 21 days of isolation,” the city authorities announced on Monday, according to The Beijing News.

The Daqing authorities also “recommended that residents do not venture to Beijing for now unless it is essential.”

Amber Wang contributed research.

Source link


Australia v England: first rugby union Test – live!

30 mins: There’s an almighty scrap for the ball...

Kiwi fighter ends opponent in stunning fashion

Kiwi boxer David Nyika stopped his opponent Louis Masters...

Is the electric grid ready for extreme space weather?

In the early hours of March 13, 1989, the...