BEIJING – Beijing reported a slight increase in new coronavirus cases Wednesday as it fights a new outbreak with strict measures aimed at reducing human contact and the chances of a new wave of infections across the country.
More than 60% of commercial flights in and out of Beijing have been canceled as the city limits travel in and out of the city, especially from districts where new cases have been detected.
The website of the Communist Party’s Global Times said that as of 9 a.m. Wednesday, a total of 1,255 flights to and from the capital’s two major airports have been scrapped.
Beijing said it had essentially eradicated local transmission but in recent days has added 137 cases in the city of 20 million people.
On Wednesday, the capital reported 31 cases, up from 27 the day before, in an outbreak that has been primarily linked to a wholesale food market. Nationwide, China reported 44 new cases, around the average for recent days.
No new deaths were reported and just 252 people are currently in treatment for COVID-19.
In Beijing, visitor numbers at museums, libraries and galleries will be capped at 30% of capacity while sporting events are being suspended along with other large group activities.
Meetings can be held under stringent conditions with less than 100 participants.
Group tourism across city and provincial borders is suspended, adding to bans on residents from high-risk areas from leaving Beijing and bans on taxis and car-hailing services from transporting people across the city border.
Mask wearing, social distancing and disinfecting will all be more tightly enforced. Checks at the entrance to residential communities are also being tightened.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
— India added 2,003 deaths to its toll Wednesday after New Delhi and Maharashtra states included 1,672 unreported fatalities. Adding the unreported fatalities drove India’s fatality rate, defined as the proportion of death to the total number of cases, from 2.9% to 3.4%. The Health Ministry also reported 10,974 new coronavirus cases. Its national caseload of more than 354,000 is fourth highest in the world. Its death toll is eighth highest. Health experts have warned that the country was undercounting fatalities. Some states used varying criteria to categorize their dead, and the numbers are though to be higher for other reasons common around the world, such as limited testing.
— Indonesia has overtaken Singapore as the country which has the most COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, after it reported 1,031 new cases in the last 24 hours. Indonesian has now recorded 41,431 total COVID-19 cases and 2,276 deaths. More than 16,000 patients have recovered. Nevertheless, the government is moving forward with plans to restart some tourism.
— South Korea has reported 43 new cases of COVID-19 as health authorities scramble to slow transmissions in the greater capital area amid increased public activity. The figures released by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday brought its caseload to 12,198 infections, including 279 deaths. The KCDC said 25 new cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, where infections have been linked to entertainment and leisure activities, church gatherings, e-commerce workers and door-to-door salespeople. Twelve of the new cases were linked to international arrivals.
— Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern assigned a top military leader to oversee New Zealand’s border quarantine measures. She made the move after what she described as an “unacceptable failure” by health officials in allowing two travelers to leave quarantine before they had been tested for the virus. After the women tested positive, officials began contacting 320 people who may have come into contact with them. Before the two new cases were announced Tuesday, New Zealand had gone more than three weeks without reporting any new cases and was considered virus-free. Air Commodore Digby Webb, the assistant chief of defense, will oversee all quarantine and managed isolation facilities.
— Thailand’s leader says the country is beginning to see “the light at the end of the tunnel” in its fight against COVID-19 but is some distance away from being able to declare total victory. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Wednesday in a televised speech that Thailand has been recognized for controlling the spread of the coronavirus and was now relaxing as many restrictions as possible, but had to stay alert against a second wave of the disease. “We must be extremely careful, continuing to wear masks, practicing social distancing and hand hygiene, and generally being careful about gathering together,” he said. Thai authorities earlier in the day announced no new cases of the disease, leaving the country’s total at 3,135 with 58 deaths.
— Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne says China and Russia are using anxiety around the coronavirus pandemic to undermine Western democracies by spreading disinformation online. Payne said in a university speech that the disinformation contributed to a “climate of fear and division” when the world needed cooperation and understanding. She referred to a Europe Union finding that Russia and China are flooding Europe with disinformation campaigns. China has warned its citizens about racism in Australia and made trade moves recently that are widely regarded as punishment for Australia’s advocacy for an independent inquiry into the origins and responses to the pandemic.
— A Philippine anti-graft prosecutor said his agency will investigate the Department of Health and its top officials over what he said was their mishandling of the response to the pandemic that led to the deaths of medical personnel. Ombudsman Samuel Martires said investigators will look into possible criminal liabilities for Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other officials over delays in the procurement of protective suits and other lapses that led to the death of several doctors and other medical personnel. The department said it will cooperate in the investigation.