China shuts schools and cancels flights as Beijing reports an 'extremely grave' surge in new coronavirus cases

A man who recently visited Beijing will be tested for the COVID-19 corona virus on June 15, 2020 in Nanjing, east China's Jiangsu Province. - China's capital raced on June 15 to control another outbreak of the coronavirus. 75 cases were related to a single grocery store in Beijing, where authorities blocked neighborhoods and launched an extensive testing and tracing program. (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT (Photo by STR / AFP via Getty Images)
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A man will be tested for the COVID-19 corona virus on June 15, 2020 in Nanjing, east China's Jiangsu Province.
STR / AFP via Getty Images
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China closes schools, cancels flights, and blocks neighborhoods after numerous new COVID-19 cases have been reported.
Beijing had not reported any locally transmitted cases on 57 consecutive days until a number of cases occurred last week.
The new outbreak has been linked to a massive food market in Beijing, where reports have been found to show traces of coronavirus on cutting boards for imported salmon.
"This has really sounded an alarm bell for us," said Cai Qi, secretary of the Communist Party in Beijing.
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China has imposed new restrictions by closing schools and canceling several flights after numerous new COVID-19 cases have been reported that have not yet been brought under control.
Beijing had not reported any locally transmitted cases on 57 consecutive days until a number of cases occurred last week, according to the BBC.
According to Reuters, there were 31 new infections in Beijing by June 16, according to authorities. This brought the total number of cases in China's capital to 137, the worst total in the city since the pandemic was first controlled in March.
Related topics: How do we know that COVID-19 was not made in a laboratory?
"This has really sounded an alarm bell for us," Cai Qi, secretary of the Beijing Communist Party, reportedly told a meeting of Chinese government officials. Qi described the development as "extremely serious".
Reports in state-run newspapers suggested that the new outbreak may have resulted from the massive Xinfadi market in Beijing, where traces of COVID-19 were found on cutting boards for imported salmon.
Officials raised the alarm level back to level two on Tuesday, the second highest in a four-stage emergency response system where officials impose various emergency measures.
China's capital subsequently canceled dozens of flights, blocked entire neighborhoods around the market, and closed schools to control the new outbreak, Reuters reported.
The market has been visited by thousands of people daily and provides 80% of the city's meat and vegetables, the BBC reported, which means that controlling the spread of the outbreak is likely to be difficult.
"The risk of the outbreak spreading is enormous and it is difficult to control," said Pang Xinghuo, a state disease control officer, in comments at a press conference reported by Reuters.
"(We) cannot rule out that the number of cases will remain for a certain period of time."
It has raised fears among citizens that the city may be heading for another full closure.
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