Flights to Beijing Canceled as City Tightens Covid Travel Restrictions

People scan a health QR code as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus before entering a mall in Beijing on November 2, 2021.

Jade Gao | AFP | Getty Images

BEIJING. About half of flights to and from Beijing’s two airports were canceled on Tuesday as the capital tightened travel restrictions following a spate of new cases in the city and other parts of the country over the past few days.

That’s according to aviation industry data site VariFlight, which tracks 800 to 1,000 flights to Beijing Capital International Airport and Beijing Daxing International Airport.

China has a strict zero-tolerance policy for controlling the coronavirus.

Local authorities, especially in the capital, are on high alert after several local coronavirus cases over the weekend indicated that the latest spike in cases may be spreading beyond several regions. To be clear, the numbers pale in comparison to most of the world’s major cities.

The Beijing Health Commission announced on Monday that residents who leave the city for business travel or travel to areas with confirmed cases of the disease must “postpone” their return and stay where they are, according to CNBC’s translation of Chinese text. Residents should “Don’t leave the city unnecessarily,” the commission said.

Terminal 3 of Beijing Capital International Airport will be much deserted than usual on Tuesday afternoon, November 2, 2021.

Iris Wang | CNBC

The official announcement followed anecdotes on Chinese social media over the weekend about people who were unable to book a trip back to the capital. It was unclear how many people were affected.

Shanghai Disneyland suddenly closed the entrance to new visitors on Sunday, Halloween, and more than 33,000 people who have been in the park since Saturday have been tested for the virus. According to the city, none of them produced positive results.

Importantly for Beijing, the city is set to hold a high-level political gathering next week and is preparing to host the Winter Olympics in February.

Airport staff contacted by CNBC said people arriving from a city or county where a confirmed case of the coronavirus was detected cannot enter Beijing. Those arriving from areas where there have been no Covid cases must provide Covid test results from the past 48 hours and monitor their health for 14 days after entering the city.

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China’s Zero Tolerance Covid-19 policy means that all travelers from overseas must be quarantined at certain hotels upon arrival in the country. Those wishing to enter Beijing must first go through a 21-day quarantine in other cities, airport officials said.

Mainland China reported 54 new cases of local transmission on Monday, bringing the total current cases to just over 900, according to the National Health Commission. As of Tuesday morning, the city of Beijing has reported 4 additional cases of Covid-19.

These numbers are much lower than those reported in other countries such as the United States, with more than 80,000 coronavirus cases daily.

The highly contagious virus first appeared in China at the end of 2019. By the beginning of the second quarter of last year, the country had managed to contain the nationwide spread of the virus, and there have been almost no deaths from the virus since the initial outbreak.

Meanwhile, the virus has spread abroad in a global pandemic that has claimed the lives of at least 5 million people as of Monday.

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