SHANGHAI / BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese authorities introduced new COVID-19 curbs around Beijing on Tuesday, putting 4.9 million residents under lockdown as new infections raised concerns over a second wave in a country which mainly contained the disease.
The number of new cases reported in mainland China on Tuesday almost halved from the previous day and remained a small fraction of what it saw at the height of the outbreak in early 2020. However, local authorities are implementing strict measures whenever new cases emerge to prevent the kind of economic crippling seen a year ago.
The National Health Commission reported 55 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, up from 103 the day before. Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing, accounted for 40 of 42 locally transmitted infections, with the capital and northeastern province of Heilongjiang each reporting a local case.
The city of Langfang, Hebei, said Tuesday that its 4.9 million residents would be quarantined at home for seven days and subjected to COVID-19 mass testing.
Two counties under Langfang jurisdiction that border Beijing – Guan and Sanhe – had already announced home quarantine measures. Guan reported a new case of COVID-19 but Sanhe did not say if any of its residents had been diagnosed with the disease.
Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei, has been hardest hit by the latest wave of infections and has already placed its 11 million people under lockdown. The province has closed some sections of highways and is ordering vehicles registered in Shijiazhuang to turn around.
The Gaocheng District in Shijiazhuang is home to more than 20,000 people living in 12 remote villages under central quarantine as part of the city’s COVID-19 control, China’s China News Service reported Monday evening.
Authorities from Xicheng District in Beijing said on Tuesday that the confirmed Guan County COVID-19 patient was working in a building in the district.
In a village in southern Beijing that shares a border with Hebei, residents stopped vehicles and asked to see health tracking codes on cell phones.
“The measures have tightened since January 8,” said a volunteer security officer named Wang. “We have to be careful because we are near Guan, where cases of COVID have been reported today.”
At a Beijing road checkpoint near the border with Hebei, police officers in protective gear ordered a car entering Beijing to return to Hebei after the driver could not show proof he had. passed a COVID-19 test.
A new directive released by the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control recommended taxi and ride-sharing operators to suspend ride-sharing services, the Communist Party-backed Beijing Daily reported Tuesday.
The directive also said that drivers should undergo a nucleic acid test for the coronavirus every week and be vaccinated to work.
Other Chinese provinces are reporting new confirmed or asymptomatic cases. Heilongjiang Province reported 36 new asymptomatic cases in Wangkui County, which was also locked down on Monday.
Authorities do not classify asymptomatic cases as confirmed COVID-19 infections.
The cities of Yichun and Qiqihar in Heilongjiang on Tuesday reported one and seven new asymptomatic cases linked to Wangkui, respectively.
Changchun City – the capital of neighboring Jilin Province – reported seven new asymptomatic patients on January 11, four of whom had recently traveled from Wangkui.
The residential complexes in which these patients lived have been locked out, preventing people and vehicles from leaving the premises.
Authorities in Wuhan, where COVID-19 first appeared in late 2019, launched contact tracing work on Monday after two infected people from Hebei visited the city.
Across China, the number of new asymptomatic cases rose to 81 from 76 a day earlier.
In a rare move, Jinzhong, a town in Shanxi Province that shares a border with Shijiazhuang, said on Tuesday it would administer COVID-19 tests to all travelers from Hebei upon arrival, in addition to other tests. COVID-19 mandatory.
Jinzhong reported on Monday two asymptomatic patients who had returned from Hebei.
The total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in mainland China now stands at 87,591, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.