BEIJING (AP) — Beijing reported a slight increase in new coronavirus cases Wednesday as it fights a new outbreak with strict measures aimed at reducing human contact and the chances of a new wave of infections across the country.
More than 60% of commercial flights in and out of Beijing have been canceled as the city limits travel in and out of the city, especially from districts where new cases have been detected.
The website of the Communist Party’s Global Times said that as of 9 a.m. Wednesday, a total of 1,255 flights to and from the capital’s two major airports have been scrapped.
Beijing had essentially eradicated local transmission but in recent days has added 137 cases in the city of 20 million people.
On Wednesday, the capital reported 31 cases, up from 27 the day before, in an outbreak that has been primarily linked to a wholesale food market.
Nationwide, China reported 44 new cases, around the average for recent days. Eleven of those were brought from abroad by Chinese travelers, while one other local case was from Hebei province adjacent to Beijing and one in the eastern province of Zhejiang further south.
No new deaths were reported and just 252 people are currently in treatment for COVID-19, with another 113 being isolated and observed for being suspected cases or for testing positive for the virus without showing any symptoms.
In Beijing, visitor numbers at museums, libraries and galleries will be capped at 30% of capacity while sporting events are being suspended along with other large group activities.
Meetings can be held under stringent conditions with less than 100 participants, an allowance considered important to keeping China’s central government functioning.
Group tourism across city and provincial borders is suspended, adding to bans on residents from high-risk areas from leaving Beijing and bans on taxis and car-hailing services from transporting people across the city border.
Mask wearing, social distancing and disinfecting will all be more tightly enforced. Checks at the entrance to residential communities are also being tightened, with some requiring proof that people have not traveled to places where infections have been reported.
A number of communities near a pair of markets where cases have been found have been put on total lockdown and thousands of people ordered to be tested. Anyone who visited the markets has been ordered to self-isolate for 14 days and undergo a test.
In total, China has reported 4,634 deaths from COVID-19 among 83,265 cases.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
— South Korea has reported 43 new cases of COVID-19 as health authorities scramble to slow transmissions in the greater capital area amid increased public activity. The figures released by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday brought its caseload to 12,198 infections, including 279 deaths. The KCDC said 25 new cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, where infections have been linked to entertainment and leisure activities, church gatherings, e-commerce workers and door-to-door salespeople. Twelve of the new cases were linked to international arrivals.
— Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern assigned a top military leader to oversee New Zealand’s border quarantine measures. She made the move after what she described as an “unacceptable failure” by health officials in allowing two travelers to leave quarantine before they had been tested for the virus. After the women tested positive, officials began contacting 320 people who may have come into contact with them. Before the two new cases were announced Tuesday, New Zealand had gone more than three weeks without reporting any new cases and was considered virus-free. Air Commodore Digby Webb, the assistant chief of defense, will oversee all quarantine and managed isolation facilities.
— Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne says China and Russia are using anxiety around the coronavirus pandemic to undermine Western democracies by spreading disinformation online. Payne said in a university speech that the disinformation contributed to a “climate of fear and division” when the world needed cooperation and understanding. She referred to a Europe Union finding that Russia and China are flooding Europe with disinformation campaigns. China has warned its citizens about racism in Australia and made trade moves recently that are widely regarded as punishment for Australia’s advocacy for an independent inquiry into the origins and responses to the pandemic.