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

Beijing’s major luxury goods hub SKP said Friday it will close – without setting a reopening date – after the city confirmed three cases of Covid in a nearby residential community.

Kevin Fryer | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The Chinese capital, Beijing, tightened Covid restrictions on Sunday during its battles and outbreak, while Shanghai allowed some of its 25 million residents outside for light and air after reporting a second day of no infections outside quarantine areas.

The outbreak in Shanghai, which began in March, was the worst in China since the epidemic’s early months in 2020. Hundreds of thousands have been infected, and the city has prevented residents from leaving their homes, sparking great public anger.

The outbreak in China’s most populous city and the risk of spreading in Beijing test the government’s zero-Covid approach in a year in which Xi Jinping is expected to secure an unprecedented third term as president.

Beijing, which has an outbreak of dozens of daily infections on its 10th day, has not yet been locked down. More than 300 locally transferred cases have been recorded since April 22.

But the capital on Sunday 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 conducted mass testing in most of its 16 counties, suspended all entertainment venues and banned dining in restaurants.

“The effect of all this on us is so great – 20,000 yuan ($3,000) went in one day, just like this!” said Jia, manager of a popular burger restaurant usually in eastern Beijing.

“Our boss is stressing about this as well,” Jia said, requesting that his name only be used by his own. “We have three branches in Shanghai. They all closed down and lost money for a month. And now this.”

Beijing’s sprawling Universal Studios theme park closed Sunday, while in the heavily-visited Badaling section of the Great Wall, visitors were required to show evidence of negative Covid test results before entering.

Chaoyang District, which accounts for the largest share of infections in the outbreak in Beijing, 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 mobile phone marked her profile as abnormal.

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

Anger in Shanghai

Shanghai’s citywide lockdown since early April has upended the daily lives of its residents, raising fears about food and concern about them being taken to crowded quarantine centers if they contract the virus.

Strict measures taken to close apartment complexes, including fencing the entrances to buildings, sparked a wave of outrage.

A resident of a so-called containment building overlooks their balconies on April 24, 2022 in Shanghai, China as the city battles the worst outbreak of the COVID-19 virus since the start of the epidemic.

picture | Future Publishing | Getty Images

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

The song “Do you hear the people sing?” From Les Misérables music it became a popular protest anthem. On Saturday, a video of a Chinese orchestra playing the song, with the musicians performing from their homes, went viral online, with nearly 19,000 posts before it was banned.

While most of the city remains closed, officials in Shanghai said, on a confident note, on Sunday that restrictions will be eased in some areas after the city curbed the risks of community-wide transmission of Covid, except for cases in quarantine centers.

Six out of 16 counties have reached the state of zero COVID-19, which means three consecutive days with no new daily increases in infections, senior city government official Gu Hongwei said at a virtual press conference.

At the press conference, a health official said that public transportation would be allowed to resume in five areas, but residents should stay in their areas while visiting supermarkets, pharmacies and hospitals.

Social media posts showed the streets of Fengxian, one of the six counties, filled with pedestrians and choked with scooters and bicycles. Reuters was unable to verify the authenticity of the videos.

But despite the low transmission, Shanghai will launch a new round of citywide PCR and antigen tests from Sunday through May 7.

Excluding imported cases from outside the mainland, China reported 8,256 new domestic cases on Saturday, down from 10,703 the day before. Beijing saw 59 cases, while Shanghai saw 7,872 new cases and all 38 deaths in the country.

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