As Beijing tightens COVID restrictions, hard-hit Shanghai sees signs of life

  • Beijing’s COVID outbreak enters 10th day
  • Shanghai reports 2nd day of zero cases outside quarantine areas
  • Shanghai begins easing restrictions in some areas

BEIJING/SHANGHAI, May 1 (Reuters) – China’s capital Beijing tightened COVID restrictions on Sunday as it battled an outbreak, while Shanghai let more of its 25 million people venture into the light and the air after reporting a second day of zero infections outside quarantined areas.

The outbreak in Shanghai, which began in March, is the worst in China since the first months of the pandemic in 2020. Hundreds of thousands of people have been infected and the city has banned residents from leaving their homes, at the great public anger.

Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, personally in Shanghai to oversee the city’s epidemic control work, said on Sunday that although now is not the time to relax, communities have been without new cases for seven days. should be allowed to return to the “normal social order”.

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The outbreak in China’s most populous city and the risk of spread in Beijing are testing the government’s zero-COVID approach that has put enormous pressure on local economies in a year when Xi Jinping is set to secure a third term. unprecedented in the presidency.

Beijing, with dozens of daily infections in an outbreak now in its 10th day, has not locked down. More than 300 locally transmitted cases have been recorded since April 22.

But on Sunday, the capital tightened social distancing rules and launched a new round of mass testing in its worst-hit neighborhood.

The city of 22 million last week carried out mass testing in most of its 16 districts, suspended all entertainment venues and banned restaurants.

“The impact of all this on us is too great – 20,000 yuan ($3,000) in one day, just like that!” said Jia, manager of a hamburger restaurant in eastern Beijing.

“Our boss is also stressed about it,” Jia said, asking to be identified only by his last name. “We have three branches in Shanghai. They have all been closed and losing money for a month. And now this.”

Beijing’s Universal Studios theme park closed on Sunday, while at the heavily visited Badaling section of the Great Wall, visitors were asked to show proof of negative COVID test results before entering.

Chaoyang District, which accounts for the largest share of infections in Beijing’s outbreak, has launched an additional round of mass testing, with public health workers knocking on doors to remind residents to get tested.

“I take the PCR test every day and I know I’m not sick,” said a Chaoyang resident surnamed Ma, whose local health app on her cellphone had marked her profile as abnormal.

“I feel caged, like I’m sick. These restrictions are too excessive,” said Ma, who works in finance.

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The citywide lockdown of Shanghai since early April has raised worries about food and concerns about being taken to overcrowded quarantine centers if they catch the virus.

The extreme measures taken to seal off residential compounds, including the fencing off of building entrances, have sparked outrage.

Some residents took to social media to vent their frustration, some banged pots and pans outside their windows, and others clashed with public health workers.

The song “Do you hear the people singing?” from the musical “Les Miserables” has become a popular protest anthem. On Saturday, an online video of a Chinese orchestra playing the song, with the musicians performing from their respective homes, went viral with nearly 19,000 shares before being blocked.

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While much of the city has remained in lockdown, new cases have halved in recent days, prompting state media to describe the situation as steadily improving and ‘effectively under control’. , suggesting a loosening of the brakes to come.

Shanghai officials, setting an optimistic tone at a press conference on Sunday, said restrictions in some areas would be eased after the city successfully brought transmission risks under control at the community level, excluding cases. in quarantine centers.

Six of its 16 districts have achieved COVID zero status, meaning three consecutive days with no new daily rise in infections, senior city government official Gu Honghui said at a virtual press conference.

Public transport will be allowed to resume in five districts, but residents should stay in their quarters when visiting supermarkets, pharmacies and hospitals, a health official said at the press conference.

Social media posts showed the streets of Fengxian, one of the six wards, filled with pedestrians and choked with scooters and bicycles.

Excluding imported cases from outside the mainland, China reported 8,256 new local cases on Saturday, down from 10,703 the day before. Beijing accounted for 59 of the infections, while Shanghai recorded 7,872 new cases and all of the country’s 38 deaths. Read more

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Reporting by Ryan Woo, Jing Xu, Brenda Goh, Martin Quin Pollard, Alessandro Diviggiano and Zhang Yan; Editing by William Mallard, Tom Hogue and Angus MacSwan

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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