Beijing blocks entry and exit to Hebei province capital as coronavirus cases rise

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Chinese authorities shut down some entry and exit ramps of a highway connecting Beijing and Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital of Hebei province, which is fighting a cluster of coronavirus infections.

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The closings were implemented to help stem a new COVID-19 wave, Beijing Daily newspaper reported on Friday.

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Tongzhou district in Beijing, which borders Hebei province, also declared that it was entering a “wartime state” to prevent infections. Such a measure is usually followed by contact tracing and testing to track down any infections at the local level.

Shijiazhuang on Thursday barred people from leaving. The city of 11 million people accounted for 31 of the 37 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases and 35 of the 57 asymptomatic cases reported in mainland China on January 7.

Though the number of new cases remains a small fraction of what China saw early last year at the height of the outbreak, which first emerged from the central city of Wuhan in late 2019, authorities have taken aggressive measures whenever new clusters emerge in order to prevent another national outbreak.

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Shijiazhuang has already launched a citywide mass COVID-19 testing drive, banned gatherings and ordered vehicles and people in high-risk COVID-19 areas to remain in their districts to keep the infections from growing.

The northern Liaoning province, which reported two new local infections and one new imported infection on Thursday, also said on Friday it had extended the quarantine period for those arriving from overseas to 21 days from 14 days.

Once those people are released from quarantine, they will be monitored for another seven days in their homes.

They will be asked to avoid unnecessary trips and public transport and to stay away from group activities during the monitoring period, Liaoning Daily, the official newspaper the provincial committee of the Communist party, reported on Friday.

For all of mainland China, new COVID-19 cases fell to 53 from 63 a day earlier. The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to date now stands at 87,331, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.