BEIJING – Beijing has taken more drastic measures such as banning high-risk people from leaving the city, as the number of infections from a wholesale food market continues to climb.

Health authorities reported 27 new cases on Tuesday (June 16), bringing the total in the capital city to 106 in the last five days.

The municipal government also suspended taxi and ride-hailing outbound services as well as inter-provincial bus links, locked down 29 residential communities and launched citywide disinfection at markets, restaurants and public venues.

Describing the situation in the capital as “very grim”, government spokesman Xu Hejian said the authorities are leaving no stone unturned in curbing the most serious outbreak in the capital city since the coronavirus emerged in Wuhan late last year.

“We must race against the clock, be proactive, always be ahead of the epidemic, and take the most determined, decisive and strictest measures,” he told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday.

Beijing has enforced the strictest anti-coronavirus measures since the outbreak in Wuhan, restricting people from other provinces from entering and requiring planes to stop at other Chinese cities for checks before flying to Beijing.

It has recorded 526 local cases so far, fewer than other major provinces and municipalities in the country such as Guangdong, Shanghai and Zhejiang.

Xinfadi market in south-west Fengtai district, where the latest outbreak was discovered last Thursday, has become Beijing’s “top priority” in its anti-coronavirus work, said the health authorities, who have ordered mass testing, contact-tracing and quarantine for anyone linked to the city’s largest wholesale centre.

More than 270 markets and over 30,000 restaurants have carried out disinfection, while another 11 markets have been closed for more extensive cleaning, said Beijing authorities.

Restaurant operators say they have been ordered to send their staff for nucleic acid testing, but they have been met with long queues at testing centres.

Beijing has the capacity to test as many as 90,000 people a day and has been racing to test all workers, visitors and close contacts of people related to Xinfadi market.

Officials say as many as 200,000 people have been to the market since May 30, and they are being tested and quarantined.

Two other markets have also had positive cases, and have been shut, with residential communities around them put under lockdown.

Yuquandong market in the north-west district of Haidian and Tiantao Honglian market in the western district of Xicheng have both had workers who were found to be infected.

Meanwhile, other provinces in China are putting their guard up against travellers from Beijing after Sichuan, Liaoning and Hebei discovered new cases originating from the capital city.

Shanghai on Tuesday directed some travellers from Beijing to be quarantined for 14 days, while Heilongjiang has required those from the capital city to test for the coronavirus.

Beijing had recently begun to relax its restrictions after nearly two months of recording no new infections. On June 6, it lowered its four-tier emergency response to Level 3.

The latest rash of infections has prompted the government to restore some measures, such as temperature-taking and registration at restaurants and malls. Gyms that had just reopened were ordered shut, while school reopening for lower primary students was delayed.

Two officials in Fengtai district and the general manager of Xinfadi market were also sacked.

But the authorities are anxious to keep the city of 20 million running to prevent another economic shock, and have kept their anti-coronavirus work largely to the affected districts.