BEIJING (AFP) – China closed schools in Beijing and restricted air travel from the capital on Wednesday to halt an outbreak of coronavirus cases and dampen fears of a second wave, as India s death toll spiked and Sweden s went above 5,000.
The new Chinese cluster and surging infections in Latin America and South Asia have raised fresh doubts about how quickly the world can control a pandemic that has so far caused more than 443,000 deaths from more than eight million infections.
The pandemic has forced sports, entertainment and cultural events off the calendar for the past three months, but the resumption of the English Premier League on Wednesday after a 100-day exile marked a return to something like normality.
And amid a frenzied scramble to find a treatment or a vaccine, British researchers announced that a common steroid could reduce deaths among COVID-19 patients.
However, the lack of a vaccine means nations continue to rely on lockdowns or other lesser restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.
– Situation is serious –
Beijing ordered further restrictions on Wednesday after reporting 31 more cases, taking its total to 137 in the past six days in an outbreak linked to a sprawling wholesale market called Xinfadi.
More than 1,200 flights were cancelled in the capital on Wednesday, state media reported, schools were shut and residents were urged not to leave their homes.
The authorities are carrying out thousands of tests.
“The situation is serious and people don t want to come out,” said Bai Xue, a worker at a Beijing restaurant that has put up a notice online saying it has not sourced food from Xinfadi.
Chinese officials have ruled out the possibility that the outbreak was caused by Norwegian salmon, prompting Norway to call for the resumption of sales.