Beijing hit by record imported coronavirus cases, no new domestically transmitted cases

Reuters BEIJING | Updated on March 19, 2020 Published on March 19, 2020

Beijing was hit by a record number of imported cases of the coronavirus as new local transmissions in China fell to zero, putting more pressure on the Chinese capital to screen out infected passengers and isolate suspected cases.

It was the first time since the virus took hold late last year in Hubei province - including the city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak - that China has recorded no locally transmitted cases.

In recent days, China has increasingly focused its counter-epidemic efforts on inbound travellers as the coronavirus rapidly expanded its global footprint, raising the prospect of a second wave of infections arriving from abroad.

“A single spark can start a prairie fire,” the official China Daily wrote in an editorial on Thursday.

Beijing reported 21 new cases of infections from abroad on Wednesday, mostly people travelling from Spain and Britain. The Beijing infections accounted for the bulk of the 34 new imported cases seen in mainland China.

Since last week, Beijing Capital International Airport has carved out a special zone for all international flights, with all disembarking passengers required to submit to health checks. Non-transit travellers were then sent to a processing venue from which they were dispatched to designated places for compulsory 14-day quarantine.

The Chinese capital has now stopped allowing people arriving from overseas to be self-quarantined, even if the person has a place to stay alone in isolation, which was allowed before, state media reported on Thursday.

International flights to Beijing will be diverted to nearby cities such as Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Taiyuan and Hohhot, the financial news outlet Caixin reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed sources. The plan would only apply to flights operated by Chinese carriers, it added.

Reports that aviation authorities would divert some international arrivals in Beijing to neighbouring cities suggest the capital city may have reached its limit in screening the incoming visitors, China Daily said in its editorial.

Guangdong province reported nine new imported cases, while Shanghai saw two fresh infections from overseas, bringing the overall number of imported cases to 189 so far.

In contrast, the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the country's coronavirus outbreak, reported no new infections for the first time, according to the National Health Commission.

The total number of confirmed cases in mainland China stands at 80,928, with the overall death toll at 3,245 as of the end of Wednesday, up by eight from the previous day.

In the central province of Hubei, there were eight new deaths, with the provincial capital of Wuhan accounting for six of the fatalities.

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Published on March 19, 2020
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