SYMBOLICALLY, BEIJING IS the worst of places for a potential second-wave outbreak of Covid-19 to occur. Authorities have been forced to quarantine a large area in the west of the capital around the city’s main fresh-food market, Xinfadi, with 137 new cases reported there in the past six days.
Residents are being tightly monitored and travel restricted. Schools are closed. Taxis cannot leave the city and flights out of Beijing were cancelled on Wednesday. Destinations such as Macau are enforcing mandatory 14-day isolation on travellers arriving from the capital. Mask wearing in public in the capital is again becoming required, having been laxly practised of late as the first wave of the outbreak appeared to recede across most of the country.
Low though the numbers are by international standards, since Covid-19 was first reported in Wuhan, authorities have been particularly concerned about an outbreak of the infection in Beijing. This is both because it is the capital and political centre of the country and because it would undermine the official narrative of the Party’s success in managing the pandemic. Having to seal off the city, in the way the outbreak in the northeast near the Russian border was handled, would be embarrassing, but still cannot be ruled out at this point.
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