Beijing cancels flights, shuts schools over new virus outbreak

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Customers wearing face masks shop live seafood at a Carrefour supermarket, following new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections in Beijing, China June 17, 2020. (Reuters)
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People wearing face masks wait for the delivery of goods they ordered online in a residential area in Xicheng district which is under lockdown after a new COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak near the closed Xinfadi Market in Beijing on June 17, 2020. (AFP)
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Medical workers stand on the roadside watching people who had their car number plates recorded in the area of the Xinfadi market where a new COVID-19 coronavirus cluster emerged last week, walk to do swab tests for the coronavirus at a testing centre in Beijing on June 17, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 17 June 2020

Beijing cancels flights, shuts schools over new virus outbreak

  • All schools have been ordered to close again and return to online classes
  • Officials have closed 11 markets and disinfected thousands of food and beverage businesses in Beijing

BEIJING: Beijing’s airports canceled two-thirds of all flights on Wednesday and schools in the Chinese capital were closed again as authorities rushed to contain a new coronavirus outbreak and warned infections may rise.
The city reported 31 new cases while officials urged residents not to leave Beijing, with fears growing about a second wave of infections in China, which had largely brought the contagion under control since its emergence in Wuhan late last year.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been tested so far following the fresh outbreak, which is believed to have started in the sprawling Xinfadi wholesale food market.
Almost 30 residential compounds in the city are now under lockdown.
“Because the Xinfadi market is the largest marketplace selling daily necessities, with thousands of migrant workers and a large number of visitors, it is hard to control the spread,” said Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We may see a rise in confirmed cases in the coming days,” Pang told a regular press briefing.
Beijing has reported 137 infections over the past six days and 95 percent of them were “mild cases,” Pang said.
The city has ramped up its testing capacity and is gathering about 400,000 samples a day, said Zhang Qiang, an official from Beijing’s epidemic prevention task force.
Since June 13, 356,000 samples have been tested. That includes swabs from workers and visitors to different markets in Beijing and communities near to spots where outbreaks have been registered.
A shortage of expensive testing machines has led to delays in processing.
At least 1,255 scheduled flights were canceled Wednesday, state-run People’s Daily reported — nearly 70 percent of all trips to and from Beijing’s main airports.
The outbreak had already forced authorities to announce a travel ban for residents of “medium- or high-risk” areas of the city, while requiring all other residents to take nucleic acid tests in order to leave Beijing.
Several provinces were quarantining travelers from Beijing, where all schools — which had mostly reopened — have been ordered to close again and return to online classes.
Officials have closed 11 markets and disinfected thousands of food and beverage businesses in Beijing after the outbreak was detected.
In addition to the cluster in Beijing, two domestic cases — one in neighboring Hebei province and another in the eastern province of Zhejiang — were reported Wednesday, while there were 11 imported cases.
A local case was also reported in Tianjin, a large city located just outside Beijing to the southeast, state television announced late in the day.
The 22-year-old man, a hotel restaurant worker, reportedly had not left Tianjin in the two weeks before displaying symptoms — fueling speculation about another possible cluster.
Authorities have so far banned group sports, ordered people to wear masks in crowded enclosed spaces, and suspended inter-provincial group tours in response to the outbreak.
Bars in Beijing’s trendy Sanlitun area were ordered to shut down, while shops were seeing lighter foot traffic.
Officials said that since May 30, more than 200,000 people had visited Xinfadi market, which supplies more than 70 percent of Beijing’s fruit and vegetables.
Until the new outbreak, most of China’s recent cases were nationals returning from abroad as COVID-19 spread globally, and the government had all but declared victory against the disease.
China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that the virus type found in the Beijing outbreak was a “major epidemic strain” in Europe.


At least two killed as car ploughs into pedestrian zone in German town

Updated 01 December 2020

At least two killed as car ploughs into pedestrian zone in German town

  • The driver was arrested and the vehicle was impounded, Trier police tweeted
  • Two people have died, and 15 others had suffered serious injuries

BERLIN: At least two people including a child were killed and up to 15 injured on Tuesday when a speeding car ploughed into a pedestrian area in the western German city of Trier, authorities said.
Witnesses said people screamed in panic and some were thrown into the air by the car as it crashed through the shopping zone.
Police said several people had been killed, having earlier put the death toll at two, with more than 10 injured. The local newspaper, the Trierischer Volksfreund, put the death toll at four, including a child, but police did not confirm that figure.
"We have arrested one person, one vehicle has been secured," police said, adding that a 51-year-old German suspect from the Trier area was being questioned, police said.
Mayor Wolfram Leibe had rushed to the scene.
"We have a driver who ran amok in the city. We have two dead that we are certain of and up to 15 injured, some of them with the most severe injuries," he told public broadcaster SWR.
"I just walked through the city centre and it was just horrible. There is a trainer lying on the ground, and the girl it belongs to is dead," he told a news conference, with tears stopping him from speaking further.
He told broadcaster N-TV that people who saw the incident were "totally traumatised" and the street "looks a bit like after a war".
Leibe said he did not know the motive for the incident, which shocked residents of Germany's oldest town, founded by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago.
The Trierischer Volksfreund quoted an eyewitness as saying a Range Rover was driving at high speed and people had been thrown through the air. It said the car had Trier plates.
It reported that people screamed in panic when the car drove through the street.
Officers were scouring the area in search of evidence, backed by police dressed in flak jackets and carrying rifles. On the streets, Christmas lights twinkled incongruously.
Germany has tightened security on pedestrian zones across the country since a truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market in 2016 that killed 12 people and injured dozens.
In October 2019, a man opened fire on a synagogue in the city of Halle. After failing to get into the building he went on a rampage outside, killing two people.
In February this year a racist gunman killed nine migrants in Hanau near Frankfurt before killing his mother and himself. Only about a week later, a local man ploughed his car into a carnival parade in the town of Volkmarsen, injuring 61.
Germany has tightened measures to fight the coronavirus, with bars and restaurants closed, but shops and schools are still open.
"What happened in Trier is shocking. Our thoughts are with the relatives of the victims, with the numerous injured and with everyone who is currently on duty to care for the victims," Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, said on Twitter.