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New coronavirus outbreak grounds Beijing flights

Swab: A woman visits a makeshift testing centre in Beijing yesterday PICTURE: EPA

MORE than 60 per cent of flights in and out of Beijing have been axed in a bid to stop a fresh coronavirus outbreak there from turning into a devastating second wave.

The flurry of cases, linked to the Xinfandi food market that supplies 80 per cent of the Chinese capital’s vegetables and meat, was described as ‘extremely grave’ by top official Cai Qi. ‘This has truly rung an alarm bell for us,’ he admitted at a meeting of Beijing’s Communist Party standing committee.

The city had gone 57 days with no locally trasmitted cases until late last week.

Since then there have been 137, prompting a full lockdown for thousands of people living close to the market and travel bans for the residents of a further 27 neighbourhoods. Schools have cancelled lessons while gyms and swimming pools have shut down.

More than 1,200 flights had been scrapped yesterday and only about 500 arrived or departed from Beijing Capital Airport, which is traditionally the world’s second busiest in passenger capacity.

The virus was detected on boards used to chop up imported salmon at the market, according to reports. Its boss has been sacked.