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Fearful of virus return, Beijing turns into virtual fortress

Beijing has virtually walled itself off to outsiders with drastic measures to protect China’s seat of power against the threat of a second wave of coronavirus infections from other regions.

After largely getting the outbreak under control, China has banned foreigners from entering the country as authorities fret over an increase in cases imported from abroad — though most have been Chinese citizens.

But Beijing has gone a step further, imposing a strict 14-day quarantine on people arriving from other parts of China, regardless of whether they test negative for COVID-19 — a measure not required in other cities.

The ruling Communist Party postponed its once-a-year congress, known as the “two sessions”, in March and experts said it likely wants to make sure the thousands of delegates who participate are not at risk before a new date is set.

The measures are ultimately meant to shield the Communist Party elite from the virus, said Alfred Wu, associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy.

There are an estimated 11,000 Beijing residents stranded in Wuhan, officials said last week, but the city has lately seen a surge in asymptomatic cases which are notoriously difficult to detect.

During a recent visit to the Beijing West Railway Station, AFP saw that arrivals from Hubei were handled in a separate area and boarded designated buses bound for each district.

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