Beijing races to contain Covid outbreak ‘urgent and grim’ as Shanghai lockdown continues

Beijing officials said at a news conference on Saturday that they were tracking cases in several districts and involving students, tour groups and interior decoration workers. The capital reported 22 new local cases on Saturday, national health officials said Sunday morning.

“The city has recently seen several outbreaks involving multiple chains of transmission, and the risk of continued, undetected transmission is high. The situation is urgent and grim,” municipal official Tian Wei told reporters on Saturday. “The entire city must act immediately.”

The pressure to contain the outbreak in the capital comes as cases continue to rise in Shanghai despite a failed weeks-long lockdown that brought the financial hub to a halt. The city reported more than 20,000 new cases on Saturday, according to national data released Sunday morning.

Shanghai authorities also announced 39 new deaths among Covid-19 patients on Sunday. This marks a record since city officials first reported deaths in the city’s ongoing outbreak on Monday, although questions have been raised over whether the numbers account for all the deaths.

In Beijing, authorities mobilized to contain transmission as more than 20 cases were detected in the capital during a period from midnight Friday to 4 pm on Saturday, officials said. A high school where several cases were detected was closed on Friday, with students and teachers in the district required to take multiple Covid-19 tests over the next week.

Several residential communities in the same district have also been placed under “control management,” according to state media, using a term that typically means residents are barred from leaving the area while undergoing testing.

Authorities also warned parents against traveling out of town because of the risk of bringing back the infection.

Screening would also be increased in tour groups, after cases were detected among a group of mostly elderly tourists who were now in quarantine, officials said. At least one village in a suburban district of Beijing linked to a positive case was closed while mass tests were carried out.

The rush to contain the outbreak comes as fears grow across China that more stringent measures may be in store as the country follows a strict “zero-Covid” policy to eliminate the spread of the virus in each outbreak.

That policy faced its toughest challenge since March 1, when the highly transmissible Omicron variant triggered multiple simultaneous outbreaks. The case count has risen to unprecedented levels in China, driven by large outbreaks in Jilin province and Shanghai in the northeast of the country.

Lockdowns and enforced quarantines in Shanghai have sparked anger and despair among citizens, who struggle for access to food and medical care. The city had previously said it would not implement a complete city-wide lockdown, leaving many unprepared when authorities quickly changed course late last month.
Restrictions have also spread to other areas, with several dozen cities rolling out some form of lockdown restrictions, according to a count earlier this month. New local cases were reported in 19 provinces on Saturday, according to national data.

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