China cancels flights, closes schools to contain latest outbreak

BEIJING: The authorities in China cancelled hundreds of flights, closed schools and ramped up mass testing yesterday to try and stamp out a new Covid-19 outbreak linked to a group of tourists.

Beijing has maintained a relentless zero-Covid approach with strict border closures and targeted lockdowns, even as other countries tentatively try to ease restrictions.

Domestic outbreaks have largely been eliminated, but as China logged a fifth straight day of new cases - mostly in northern and north-western areas - the authorities beefed up coronavirus controls.

There were 13 new domestic cases reported yesterday, China's National Health Commission said.

The latest outbreak was linked to an elderly couple who were in a group of several tourists.

They started in Shanghai before flying to Xi'an, Gansu province and Inner Mongolia.

Dozens of cases have since been linked to their travel, with close contacts in at least five provinces and regions, including the capital Beijing.

In response, local governments have rolled out mass testing and closed scenic spots and tourist sites, schools and entertainment venues in affected areas, and also imposed targeted lockdowns of housing compounds.

Around 60 per cent of flights to the two main airports in Xi'an and Lanzhou have been cancelled.

Erenhot in Inner Mongolia has banned travel in and out of the city and told residents there not to leave their housing compounds.

On Wednesday, the state-owned tabloid Global Times cautioned that the new virus cases in Inner Mongolia were likely to affect coal imports from Mongolia because of supply chain disruptions. - AFP