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Coronavirus: Outbreak in Beijing shows need to be prepared as countries reopen

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China moved swiftly Monday to try to control a new outbreak of the coronavirus after 36 more cases were confirmed in Beijing.

People were lined up at hospitals and other facilities around the capital as authorities rushed to administer thousands of nucleic acid tests of people who worked at a major wholesale market, anyone who had visited it in the past two weeks or anyone who had come in contact with either group.

Authorities have confirmed 79 cases of the coronavirus over four days in what looks to be the largest outbreak since China largely stopped the epidemic’s spread at home more than two months ago. The new outbreak appears to have started in the Xinfadi market, Beijing’s largest wholesale food market, prompting inspections of fresh meat and seafood in the city and elsewhere in China.

“We must continue to take decisive measures to defend against outside cases and internal resurgences, and mobilize all units to take responsibility,” said Xu Hejian, the director of the Beijing government information office.

At a time when other countries are loosening virus-related restrictions, the development shows the importance of being ready to deal with the inevitable fresh outbreaks. They can pop up at anytime in unexpected places, even weeks after the epidemic has seemingly died down.

Greece eased restrictions on incoming visitors Monday. Passengers on some international flights will no longer face compulsory coronavirus tests. Hotels and museums are opening in the tourism-dependent economy, as are gyms, in the latest step in a phased reopening of businesses.

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“Salut!” said a masked manager to a pair of regular customers as they entered a brasserie in Paris, where cafes and restaurants reopened for the first time since the fast-spreading virus forced them to close their doors March 14.

In the United States, the governor of hard-hit New York state threatened to reinstate business closings as some parts of the country struggled with an outbreak that appeared ready to stretch for months.

China’s authoritarian government and tight social controls enable tracking of residents’ movements through the use of apps and a network of neighbourhood associations. Entry to many office buildings, stores and restaurants requires proof on a smartphone that the person has not travelled to areas where the virus is still active.

Beijing has closed the Xinfadi market and is requiring anyone who went there to self-isolate for two weeks. Neighborhoods close to the market have been put on lockdown and more than 76,000 people tested.

Citywide, Beijing has suspended the planned restart on Monday of some primary schools and reversed the relaxation of some social isolation measures.

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