Workers in protective suits inspect the health information of passengers leaving Yantai Railway Station following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease in Yantai, Shandong province, China, on November 2 2021. Picture: REUTERS/CHINA DAILY
Workers in protective suits inspect the health information of passengers leaving Yantai Railway Station following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease in Yantai, Shandong province, China, on November 2 2021. Picture: REUTERS/CHINA DAILY

Beijing is hunkering down after experiencing more Covid-19 infections in the current cluster than at any time in the past 17 months, with officials asking for events and activities to be moved online. 

Companies should cancel all conferences unless they are essential and take other steps to reduce public interaction as much as possible, authorities said at a press briefing held late on Thursday after seven cases were found in the Chinese capital in one day. Companies and individuals who host events will be held responsible, they said. 

Organisers of the winter Olympic Games to be held in February said that two foreign athletes tested positive for the virus in the test events under way in China, the Associated Press reported Friday. The organisers didn’t share more details, according to the report.

Beijing has detected 45 cases in the latest wave, the most since June 2020. The country is struggling to contain its fourth outbreak with the more infectious Delta variant in the past five months. With more than 1,000 locally-transmitted infections spread across 21 provinces, it is already the broadest flare-up since the virus first emerged in Wuhan. 

No Tolerance

Nowhere are the stakes of maintaining the Covid Zero approach higher than in the tightly-guarded capital Beijing. It is concluding a Communist Party plenum with about 400 senior political leaders now and plans to host the Winter Olympics starting in February. Then in March lawmakers from around the country will gather in the city for the country’s annual legislative session.

A failure to contain the current outbreak would be a political as well as a medical blow in China. The country’s leaders have long boasted about the success they have had in containing the pathogen that killed more than 5-million people worldwide, but fewer than 5,000 in China, the world’s most populous country. No where else has been able to maintain a zero-tolerance approach since the Delta variant emerged, with places that had early success — like Singapore and Australia — recently pivoting to treat it as endemic.  

The latest wave in Beijing came fast and infected a larger number of people, creating a wider trajectory of disease, city government spokesperson Xu Hejian said. That makes prevention particularly difficult. The infections have triggered another bout of extensive contract tracing and rising restrictions, including the closure of a large hospital and a shopping mall in downtown Beijing. The residential compounds where the patients and their close contacts live have been locked down. 

China National Petroleum is rolling out Covid-19 testing for everyone who was inside the same building as infected patients after three employees in Beijing and northeastern Dalian, and four of their family members, tested positive for the virus. 

Coastal city Dalian has become the country’s latest hotspot, reporting 52 local cases and another five asymptomatic infections on Friday. The city’s government urged people not to leave their homes to cut off transmission, and has halted operation at what they deem unnecessary public venues.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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