China tests entire city for virus as Europe tightens controls

China rushed to test an entire city of nine million people within days on Tuesday after a minor coronavirus outbreak, underlining the country’s capacities at a time when European countries in particular are struggling to contain surging new infections. 

The virus is still spreading rapidly worldwide, with over one million deaths and 37 million infections, and many nations that suppressed their first outbreaks are now battling with a second wave.

In the absence of a vaccine, governments are wary of allowing the virus to spread unchecked, with China — where Covid-19 first emerged late last year — launching a drive to test all residents of Qingdao city after a handful of cases were detected on Sunday.

More than four million samples had been collected as of Tuesday afternoon, Qingdao authorities said, adding that 1.9 million results had been obtained. Except for confirmed infections announced earlier, no new cases had been found.

Chinese officials intend to test the entire city — around 9.4 million people — by Thursday.

In scenes contrasting with the fumbled testing efforts elsewhere, health workers in protective clothing swiftly set up tents and residents queued deep into Monday night to provide samples.

In Europe, governments are battling to curb surges with new controls and increased testing, while trying to avoid the devastating nationwide lockdowns of March and April.

Cases have climbed rapidly in Britain, France, Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic in recent weeks, raising fears that the still-low death rate could rise.

Hospitals in Paris could have most of their intensive care beds packed with Covid-19 patients as soon as next week, the system’s chief warned Tuesday.

“It’s inevitable,” Martin Hirsch, the head of the 39 hospitals in Paris and its suburbs, told the Parisien newspaper, estimating beds will be at 70-90% capacity by October 24.

President Emmanuel Macron is widely expected to announce tighter restrictions in a prime-time TV interview Wednesday night, with some media speculating Paris and other cities could face evening curfews.

Italy also imposed new hardened rules to control a resurgence, including an end to parties, amateur football matches and snacking at bars at night.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Tuesday became the latest high-profile figure to go into quarantine after coming into contact with a person with Covid-19.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose country has the highest death toll in Europe, on Monday had already ordered pubs in Liverpool to shut as part of a new strategy.

He said businesses forced to close would get support from the government, but his focus on shutting hospitality venues sparked anger as similar measures have elsewhere.

“Catastrophic, catastrophic,” said Simon Ashdown, owner of the Chepstow Castle pub in Liverpool. “I don’t think there’ll be many businesses after this lockdown.”

– ‘Ethically problematic’ –

In opposition to lockdowns and social distancing, some politicians have proposed letting the coronavirus circulate in the population to build up “herd immunity” — where so much of the population has been infected there are insufficient new

Pubs Shut In Liverpool As UK Tightens Virus Control Measures

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday ordered pubs in Liverpool to shut as part of a new strategy to tackle a surge in coronavirus cases, as staff at three field hospitals across the country were told to prepare for a wave of admissions.

The northwest English city is the first to be placed at “very high risk” under a new three-tiered system designed to bring order to what has become a complex web of local restrictions.

Johnson addressed the nation to explain the decision, saying the latest figures “are flashing at us like dashboard warnings in a passenger jet and we must act now”.

Police patrolled on horseback in Liverpool Saturday as people stayed out late partying Police patrolled on horseback in Liverpool Saturday as people stayed out late partying Photo: AFP / Lindsey Parnaby

He earlier told MPs that he could not allow Covid-19 to “let rip” and risk the death toll — the highest in Europe at almost 43,000 — spiralling even higher.

“This is not how we want to live our lives,” the Conservative leader, who himself was hospitalised with coronavirus in April, told the House of Commons.

“But this is the narrow path we have to tread between the social and economic trauma of a full lockdown and the massive human and economic cost of an uncontained epidemic.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been heavily criticised for his government's response to the outbreak Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been heavily criticised for his government’s response to the outbreak Photo: AFP / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS

Inter-household mixing will be banned indoors and in private gardens while pubs, bars, gyms, betting shops and casinos will close from Wednesday in Liverpool, which has a population of about 1.5 million.

People will be advised not to travel in and out of these areas.

Johnson said businesses forced to close would be supported under a new government programme to fund two-thirds of an employee’s monthly wages, as well as extra support for local contact tracing and enforcement.

Almost 14,000 new coronavirus cases were reported across the UK on Monday Almost 14,000 new coronavirus cases were reported across the UK on Monday Photo: AFP / Paul ELLIS

Other areas of England will be classed either as “medium”, in which current nationwide rules limiting social gatherings to six will apply, or “high”, where different households are banned from mixing indoors.

Whole swathes of northern England already facing local restrictions will automatically enter the “high” risk tier.

Earlier, the state-run National Health Service (NHS) announced that three field hospitals across northern England, in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate, would be mobilised to accept new patients.

They are among a string of temporary hospitals, named after nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale, put up by the military in conference centres and stadia coronavirus as swept across the UK earlier this year.

A street sign advises members of the public to "Maintain Social Distance" in Liverpool A street sign advises members of the public to “Maintain Social Distance” in Liverpool Photo: AFP / Paul ELLIS

Testing for hospital staff is also being stepped up in high-risk areas, as health officials warned infection rates were rising across the country and in all age ranges, not just the young.

Almost 14,000 new coronavirus cases were reported across the UK on Monday, with 50 further deaths.