BEIJING (AP) — Beijing closed about 10% of the stations of its vast subway system on Wednesday as an additional measure against the spread of the coronavirus.
The subway authority in a brief message only said that the measure to close 40 stations, mostly in the center, was being taken as part of the epidemic control measures. No date was given for the resumption of service.
Beijing has been on high alert over the spread of COVID-19, with restaurants and bars limited to takeout only, gyms closed and classes suspended indefinitely.. The city’s major tourist sites, including the Forbidden City and the Beijing Zoo, have closed their indoor exhibition halls and are operating only at partial capacity.
Some communities where cases were discovered have been isolated. People residing in “controlled” areas have been told to stay within city limits, including 12 areas considered high risk and another 35 considered medium risk.
City residents are required to undergo three tests throughout the week as authorities seek to detect and isolate cases without imposing the kind of sweeping lockdowns seen in Shanghai. and elsewhere A negative test result obtained within the previous 48 hours is required to enter most public spaces.
Beijing recorded only 51 new cases on Wednesday, five of them asymptomatic.
The subway closures should have relatively little impact on life in the city, as China celebrates the Labor Day holiday this week and many commuters in the city of 21 million already work from home.
In a downtown neighborhood classified as high-risk on Wednesday, the streets were mostly deserted except for a few delivery men on scooters and the occasional pedestrian and car.
All businesses were closed except supermarkets and fruit and vegetable stores. Outsiders generally avoid high-risk areas to avoid the possibility of their presence being recorded by tracking applications installed on virtually all mobile phones, creating potential problems for future access to public areas.
While taking a lighter touch on Beijing, China has generally adhered to its strict “zero-COVID” approach that restricts travel, tests entire cities and sets up sprawling facilities to try to isolate every infected person. The closures start with buildings and neighborhoods, but spread across the city if the virus spreads widely.
That has caused the most disruption in Shanghai, where authorities are slowly easing restrictions that have confined most of the city’s 26 million people to their apartments, complexes or immediate neighborhoods for nearly a month, and in some cases plus.
Shanghai reported another 4,982 cases on Wednesday, all but 260 of them asymptomatic, along with another 16 deaths. That continues a steady decline in China’s largest city. which recorded a daily peak of 27,605 new cases almost three weeks ago, on April 13.
The shockingly low death toll amid an outbreak of more than 400,000 cases in the city that is home to China’s main stock market and largest port, it has raised questions about how those deaths are counted.
Rigid and widely derided restrictions have led to food shortages. and medical aid along with a broader, albeit likely temporary, impact on the national economy. Desperate and outraged citizens have confronted authorities at barricades and online, shouting from their windows and banging on pots and pans in frustration and anger.
Communist authorities who do not tolerate dissent have sought to erase such protests from the internet and blamed the protests, including the banging of kitchen utensils, on agitation by unidentified “foreign anti-China forces.”