Beijing tightens Covid restrictions, but hard-hit Shanghai sees signs of life

Beijing, with dozens of infections daily in an outbreak now in its 10th day, has not blocked it. But on Sunday the capital tightened social distancing rules and launched a new round of mass testing in its most populous and hardest-hit district.

The city of 22 million last week carried out mass tests in most of its 16 boroughs, suspended all entertainment venues and banned dinners in restaurants. More than 300 locally transmitted cases have been reported since April 22.

“The impact of all this on us is very big – 20,000 yuan (US$3,000) in one day, simple as that!” said Jia, manager of a normally popular hamburger joint in eastern Beijing.

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

Beijing’s sprawling Universal Studios theme park closed on Sunday, while at the highly-visited Badaling section of the Great Wall, visitors were instructed to show proof of negative Covid test results before entering. Chaoyang district, responsible for the largest share of infections in the Beijing outbreak, has launched an additional round of mass testing, with public health professionals knocking on doors to remind residents to get tested.

Image: TOPSHOT-CHINA-HEALTH-VIRUS
A healthcare worker takes a sample from a woman to test for the coronavirus in Beijing, May 1, 2022.NOEL CELIS / AFP – Getty Images

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

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

Shanghai’s citywide lockdown since early April has shaken the daily lives of its residents, sparking food concerns and concerns about being taken to crowded quarantine centers if they contract the virus.

Extreme measures taken to seal off residential complexes, including fencing at building entrances, sparked outrage. Some residents turned to social media to vent their frustration, some banged pots and pans outside windows and others clashed with public health professionals.

The song “Do You Hear People Sing?” from the musical Les Miserables became a popular protest anthem. On Saturday, an online video of a Chinese orchestra performing the song, with the musicians performing from their respective homes, went viral with nearly 19,000 shares before it was blocked.

While much of the city remains in lockdown, Shanghai officials, taking a confident tone, said on Sunday that restrictions in some areas would be eased after the city brought Covid transmission risks under control at the community level, excluding cases in health centers. quarantine.

Six of its 16 districts have reached zero Covid status, meaning three consecutive days with no new daily increases in infections, senior city government official Gu Honghui told a virtual press conference.

Public transport will be able to resume in five districts, but residents must remain in their districts while visiting supermarkets, pharmacies and hospitals, a health official told a news conference.

Posts on social media showed the streets of Fengxian, one of the six districts, crowded with pedestrians and crowded with scooters and bicycles. Reuters could not independently verify the videos.

But despite the drop in transmissions, Shanghai will launch a new round of PCR and city-wide antigen tests from Sunday to May 7.

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

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