Beijing coronavirus cases to see ‘cliff-like’ drop this week: Chinese expert

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s capital will see a “cliff-like” drop in new cases in a recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus by the end of this week with efforts to cut chains of transmission underway, a disease control expert said.

The city of more than 20 million people reported its first case of a new spike in infections on June 11, linked to a sprawling wholesale food centre.

In all, 236 people have been infected in the worst outbreak in Beijing since the novel coronavirus was identified at a seafood market in the central city of Wuhan late last year.

Beijing reported on Monday nine new cases had been confirmed the previous day, sharply down from 22 a day earlier.

“If you control the source, and cut the chain of transmission, the number will have a cliff-like drop,” Wu Hao, a disease control expert from the National Health Commission, told state television in an interview aired late on Sunday.

Millions of people in Beijing have had their daily lives upended by the resurgence of the disease over the past 11 days, with some fearing a city lockdown is imminent.

But Wu said Beijing was not headed for a “flood-like” lockdown, unlike early efforts in Wuhan when little was known about the virus, adding that lockdown tactics had been more targeted this time.

To control the spread of the virus, Beijing has designated four neighbourhoods as high-risk and 39 as medium-risk, as of Monday.

People can leave and enter the medium-risk neighbourhoods, with temperature checks and registration, but apartment blocks with two confirmed cases or more are totally locked down.

In high-risk neighbourhoods, an entire residential compound is locked down if there is even one infection there.

To identify carriers, Beijing has been conducting tests on people it deems are in higher-risk groups such as restaurant workers and food and parcel couriers.

Residents in some low-risk neighbourhoods have also been tested. As of Saturday, about 2.3 million Beijing residents had been tested.

Though people are concerned, most are resigned to the need to be on guard for some time.

“We’ve to live with the virus for the long term before a vaccine is available,” said Bill Yuan, 28, an IT worker.

“There might be a few new infections all the time. If it happens, we’ve to stay alert for a while and quarantine. Then go back to work when it’s gone.”

(Reporting by Ryan Woo and Colin Qian; Additional reporting by Martin Pollard and Lusha Zhang; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)