Beijing steps up efforts to curb spread

Capital prepares stricter inspections as millions of people return to city

Public health efforts to curb the spread of novel coronavirus will be reinforced in Beijing as it gears up to cope with a huge influx of people returning to the capital, top municipal officials said over the weekend.

As of midnight Saturday, Beijing had confirmed 326 novel coronavirus pneumonia cases, with two deaths, 37 cured, and another 287 under quarantine for medical treatment at designated hospitals, the Beijing Health Commission said.

The capital has stepped up inspection and screening efforts, particularly at the community level, to detect cases of possible infection among people returning to Beijing and put them under treatment, Beijing Daily reported, citing information from a meeting chaired by Beijing Party Secretary Cai Qi on Saturday.

Drug retailers will be on the front line to help locate feverish people via a mechanism for reporting buyers of cold or fever treatments on a daily basis.

Construction sites restarting operations will be closely monitored and managed, it said. Prevention and control measures will be implemented, such as wearing masks and checking body temperatures.

Meal times will also be flexible at workplaces to avoid peak hour concentrations of people. Cleaning, disinfection and ventilation of dining places will be required, city authorities said.

On Thursday, the capital began releasing details of the residential communities where confirmed cases have been found on a daily basis, making residents better informed for self protection.

The Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport said the number of passengers entering the capital on trains from Feb 2 to Feb 18-on the return leg of the Spring Festival travel rush-is expected to reach 2.06 million.

Apart from those who had already booked return train tickets to Beijing, there were another 5.93 million people expected to return to the city, Rong Jun, deputy director of the transport commission, said on Feb 2.

Liu Qiong, who lives in the Jiamingyuan community in Beijing’s Chaoyang district, where a novel coronavirus case was confirmed on Thursday, said the building where the patient lived had been completely sterilized and the patient’s close contacts had been put under quarantine outside the neighborhood.

“Entering and leaving the community has also been restricted,” the 36-year-old said.

To avert cluster infection, all kinds of group catering activities have been banned.

Anyone who has organized or planned group dinners, whether individually or through organizations, needs to cancel those gatherings or postpone them, Chen Yankai, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Market Regulation Bureau, told a news conference on Wednesday.

He also urged catering business operators in the capital to strictly follow food safety rules, adding that any processing or sale of wild animals or related products by shops and e-commerce platforms had been banned in Beijing.

Starting Jan 24, the capital activated a top level public health emergency alert, with multiple restrictions introduced to help cut infection and safeguard public health.

The city’s transportation authorities said the following day they would not impose a lockdown, but strict precautions would be implemented on provincial highways and at railway stations and airports.

Each subway station and subway train is being disinfected every day, and passengers’ temperatures are being taken. On Thursday, some subway stations in the capital installed thermal imaging systems to check passengers’ body temperatures.

Beijing residents have also been asked to wear face masks in public venues such as hotels, restaurants, public transport stations and supermarkets to fulfill their civic duty in the cause of public health.

Those who don’t wear a mask in public will be encouraged to do so, and those who disobey rules may be detained, Li Fuying, director of the Beijing Justice Bureau, said on Friday.

Those who conceal symptoms or contact with the epicenter of the epidemic and those who refuse to accept necessary isolation or medical observation could be found guilty of the crime of endangering public safety, she said.