An airplane takes off at the Daxing International Airport in Beijing, Sept 25, 2019. (Photo: Xinhua)
Hundreds of flights to and from Beijing, as well as numerous interprovincial bus services, were canceled on Wednesday as the authorities ramped up restrictions on people leaving the capital to contain the recent flare-up of local COVID-19 infections.
As of 9 am on Wednesday, a total of 1,255 flights scheduled to fly in the coming days to and from the capital's two major airports－Beijing Capital International Airport and Beijing Daxing International Airport－have been canceled, according to aviation statistics provider Flight Master.
Beijing Capital International Airport was expected to handle 500 flights carrying around 32,000 passengers on Wednesday, a major drop compared with a week ago. Last Wednesday, 901 flights carrying 82,700 passengers flew in and out of the airport.
Interprovincial shuttle bus services from both airports have also been suspended, according to the airport authorities.
Carriers including Air China, China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Hainan Airlines and China United Airlines said they would offer full refunds to passengers who had purchased tickets for flights to or from Beijing.
The drastic reduction in flights came after Beijing introduced a number of measures to limit travel in and out of the city, especially among those coming from districts where new COVID-19 cases have been detected.
Beijing had essentially eradicated locally transmitted cases, but in recent days a fresh cluster of novel coronavirus cases emerged from the city's largest wholesale food market, bringing the total number to 137 as of Tuesday midnight since a locally transmitted infection was reported on June 12.
On Tuesday night, the municipal government upgraded the city's emergency response to the novel coronavirus epidemic from the third to the second level, discouraging traveling, requiring those who must travel out of Beijing to present a negative nucleic acid test result conducted within seven days of departure and suspending interprovincial group tours.
Interprovincial bus services between Beijing and other regions were suspended on Wednesday in a bid to block the spread of the coronavirus to other cities and provinces, the Beijing Commission of Transportation said, adding that all outbound taxi and car-hailing services had been halted since Tuesday.
China's railway operator said on Wednesday it would allow travelers who had booked trains in and out of Beijing as of Tuesday to cancel their tickets without charging them any additional fees.
China State Railway Group said it took this step as part of the efforts to facilitate Beijing's epidemic prevention and control work.
Under the policy, passengers who have purchased train tickets at railway stations, the online railway ticket-booking platform 12306 or other channels may cancel their tickets and get refunds at no cost.