China is battling new outbreaks of COVID-19 across the country with mass testing and new restrictions, including in tired Shanghai, where new cases have been linked to a karaoke hall that was operating illegally.
- Residents of parts of Shanghai and Beijing were required to undergo more rounds of COVID tests
- It follows the discovery of new hotspots in the two cities
- Pressure is now mounting on authorities to prevent wider spread and disruptions similar to painful and expensive lockdowns.
The country’s most populous city has just emerged from a strict lockdown that has confined most of its 24 million residents to their homes for weeks, and the new outbreaks have raised concerns of a return to such tough measures.
According to health officials, karaoke has failed to enforce prevention measures among employees and customers, including tracking other people they have come into contact with.
In response, all these establishments were ordered to temporarily suspend business, the city’s culture and tourism department said.
Shanghai’s previous lockdown sparked unusual protests, both in person and online, against the government’s harsh enforcement, which left many residents struggling to access food and medical services and sent thousands to quarantine centers.
Nightlife to close for a week
Beijing has also seen a recent outbreak linked to a nightlife spot.
It has been conducting regular tests for weeks and at least one residential complex in the suburb of Shunyi, which is home to many foreign residents, has been closed off with a steel fence installed at its entrance to prevent residents from leaving.
Enforcement in the Chinese capital has been much more lenient than in Shanghai, although authorities continue to mandate regular testing and preventive measures.
In the northern city of Xi’an, whose 13 million people suffered one of China’s strictest winter lockdowns, restaurants were restricted to takeout only and public entertainment venues closed for a week from Wednesday. fair.
A notice on the city government’s website said the measures were only temporary and meant to avoid the chance of a new outbreak.
He said supermarkets, offices, public transport and other facilities continue to operate as normal, with routine screening including temperature checks and people being required to show an app proving they are infection-free.
‘Red Zones’ in Macau
Macau’s gambling center has locked down the famous Grand Lisboa Hotel after cases were discovered there.
More than a dozen residential and commercial centers in the Chinese special autonomous region of about 650,000 people have been designated as “red zones”, with access restricted almost exclusively to emergency workers.
The authorities ordered the closure of most establishments, with the exception of casinos, which are Macau’s main revenue generator and one of the city’s biggest employers.
City residents will have to undergo three citywide COVID-19 tests this week.
The local outbreak is the biggest in Macau since the start of the pandemic, with more than 900 infections reported since mid-June.
Hong Kong must not ‘lie down’
Neighboring Hong Kong has also seen a rising trend in coronavirus infections since mid-June. Over the past seven days, reported daily infections averaged about 2,000 a day.
The city’s new leader, John Lee, said Wednesday that Hong Kong should not “lay on its side” when it comes to COVID-19, rejecting the “living with the coronavirus” mentality that most of the world has adopted.
His comments echo the sentiments of Chinese officials, who have maintained their “zero-COVID” policy, which has become closely identified with Communist Party chairman and chief Xi Jinping.
However, Lee said Hong Kong authorities are exploring options, including shortening the length of mandatory quarantine for arriving travelers.
Currently, travelers must test negative for COVID-19 before flying and be quarantined for seven days at designated hotels upon arrival.
The city, once known as a bustling business hub and international financial hub, has seen tourism and business travel hampered by its tough entry restrictions.
The strict measures remained in place despite the relatively low number of cases and the serious negative effects on China’s economy and global supply chains.
The World Health Organization recently called the policy unsustainable, a view Chinese officials have completely rejected, even as they say they hope to minimize the impact.
While China’s borders remain largely closed, cutting off both overseas visitors and outbound tourism, officials have cautiously increased flights from some foreign countries, most recently from Russia.
Mainland China reported 353 cases of domestic transmission as of Wednesday, 241 of them asymptomatic.
Shanghai announced just 24 cases in the last 24 hours and Beijing five.
Anhui announced 222 cases in what appears to be the latest cluster, prompting the inland province to order mass testing and travel restrictions in Si County, where most cases have been reported.
AP / Reuters