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Beijing locks down 1.6 million as new Covid variant hits city

Residents banned from leaving Chinese capital amid mass testing push

Beijing has been plunged back into a partial lockdown as 1.6 million inhabitants are ordered to take coronavirus tests in a bid to stop the spread of a new variant of the virus. 

The restrictions came into immediate effect yesterday, as Beijing health authority confirmed that two of a handful of new Covid-19 cases detected in the capital were “considered to be variants of the new coronavirus discovered in the UK”.

The two cases causing so much worry were reported in the southern Daxing district, where residents have been banned from leaving the city unless they have received special permission from the authorities and tested negative for Covid in the past three days.

Meetings of 50 or more people in the district have been banned, and the district government has advised that “weddings should be postponed and funerals simplified”.

The authorities have also “ordered all kindergarten, primary and secondary students in the district to study at home”, Channel News Asia reports. And residents of five Daxing neighbourhoods in the area where the cases were detected have been told to remain indoors.

Although China has “largely brought the virus under control”, a “spate of small, localised outbreaks” have prompted officials to order mass testing and strict lockdowns, and to prepare to move thousands of people into quarantine facilities to “stamp out a resurgence” before it takes hold, says France 24.

Despite those measures, however, China has reported more than 100 new cases every day for more than a week - the highest numbers since the initial outbreak in Wuhan in 2020. The country’s first death from Covid since May was reported last week. 

China is now on high alert for a potential flood of fresh cases ahead of the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, which falls on 12 February.

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