Beijing was hit by a record number of imported cases of the coronavirus as new local transmissions in China fell to zero, putting more pressure on the Chinese capital to screen out infected passengers and isolate suspected cases.
It was the first time since the virus took hold late last year in Hubei province’s capital Wuhan that China has recorded no locally transmitted cases.
In recent days, China has increasingly focused its counter-epidemic efforts on inbound travellers as the coronavirus rapidly expanded its global footprint, raising the prospect of a second wave of infections arriving from abroad.
Beijing reported 21 new cases of infections from abroad on Wednesday, mostly people travelling from Spain and Britain. The Beijing infections accounted for the bulk of the 34 new imported cases seen in mainland China.
Since last week, Beijing Capital International Airport has carved out a special zone for all international flights, with all disembarking passengers required to submit to health checks. Non-transit travellers are then sent to a processing venue from which they were dispatched to designated places for compulsory 14-day quarantine.
The Chinese capital has now stopped allowing people arriving from overseas to be self-quarantined, even if the person has a place to stay alone in isolation, which was allowed before, state media reported on Thursday.
Some international flights to Beijing will be diverted to nearby cities such as Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Taiyuan and Hohhot, the financial news outlet Caixin reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed sources. The plan would only apply to flights operated by Chinese carriers, it added.
Reports that aviation authorities would divert some international arrivals in Beijing to neighbouring cities suggest the capital city may have reached its limit in screening the incoming visitors, China Daily said in its editorial.