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

Beijing, with dozens of daily infections in an outbreak now in its 10th day, has not gone into lockdown. 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 people last week carried out mass tests in most of its 16 districts, suspending all entertainment venues and banning dining in restaurants. More than 300 locally transmitted cases have been recorded since April 22.

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

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

Beijing’s sprawling Universal Studios theme park closed on Sunday, while at the much-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 bulk of infections in the Beijing outbreak, has launched an additional round of mass testing, with public health workers knocking on doors reminding residents to get tested.

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

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

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

Shanghai’s city-wide lockdown since early April has disrupted the daily lives of its residents, raising concerns about food and concerns about being taken to overcrowded quarantine centers in case of contracting the virus.

The extreme measures taken to seal off residential complexes, including fencing off building entrances, have sparked outrage. Some residents took to social media to vent their frustration, with some banging pots and pans outside their windows and others clashing with public health workers.

The song “Do you hear the people sing?” of the musical Les Miserables has become 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 on lockdown, Shanghai officials, sounding confident, said on Sunday that restrictions in some areas would be eased after the city controlled risks of Covid transmission at the community level, excluding cases. in quarantine centers.

Six of its 16 counties have achieved Covid-zero status, meaning three consecutive days without new daily increases in infections, Gu Honghui, a senior city government official, told a virtual press conference.

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

Social media posts showed the streets of Fengxian, one of the six districts, packed with pedestrians and crowded with scooters and bicycles. Reuters was unable to independently verify the videos.

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

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