More than 60% of commercial flights in and out of Beijing have been cancelled as the Chinese capital raised its alert level against a new coronavirus outbreak and other nations confront rising numbers of illnesses and deaths.
The resurgence in China highlighted calls for vigilance as many nations are easing virus restrictions to revive their economies.
The prevention and control situation in the city was described as “extremely grave” at a meeting of Beijing’s Communist Party Standing Committee led by the city’s top official, Cai Qi.
“This has truly rung an alarm bell for us,” Mr Cai told participants.
The website of the Communist Party’s Global Times said 1,255 flights to and from the capital’s two major airports had been scrapped by Wednesday morning. Beijing Capital Airport is traditionally the world’s second busiest in passenger capacity.
No official public notice on a change in regulations has been issued by China’s civil aviation authority or by Beijing Capital Airport or Beijing Daxing International Airport, but Beijing Capital said it expected to handle 500 flights on Wednesday, sharply lower than recent days.
The cancellations are among a number of limits on travel in and out of the city. Beijing had essentially eradicated local transmissions until recent days, but has had 137 new cases since late last week.
On Wednesday, the city of 20 million people raised its threat level from 3 to 2, leading to the cancellation of classes, suspended reopenings and stronger requirements for social distancing.
China had relaxed many of its coronavirus controls after the ruling Communist Party declared victory over the virus in March.
India — which has the fourth-highest caseload after the US, Brazil and Russia — added more than 2,000 deaths to its tally, after Delhi and Maharashtra states included 1,672 previously unreported fatalities. Its death toll of 11,903 is now eighth in the world.
India has been reporting 10,000 new infections and more than 300 deaths each day over the last two weeks. Adding the previously unreported deaths drove the fatality rate from 2.9% to 3.4%.
In other coronavirus news:
– New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern assigned a top military leader to oversee the border quarantines after health officials allowed two New Zealand citizens who had recently returned from London to leave quarantine before being tested. After the women tested positive, New Zealand began tracing their potential contacts to ensure the virus is contained.
– Canada and the US will extend to July 21 an agreement to keep their border closed to non-essential travel, with many Canadians fearing cases arriving from the US.
– Australia deepened a diplomatic spat with China by accusing Beijing and Moscow of using the heightened anxiety around the pandemic to undermine Western democracies by spreading disinformation online.
– The US death toll exceeded 116,900, according to Johns Hopkins University. That surpasses the number of Americans who died in the First World War, when 116,516 were reported killed.