A worker wearing a protective suit clears a woman’s throat for a COVID-19 test at a coronavirus testing site on Wednesday in Beijing. Residents of parts of Shanghai and Beijing were required to undergo more rounds of COVID-19 testing after new cases were discovered in both cities, while additional restrictions remain in place in Hong Kong, Macau and other cities.
Mark Schiefelbein ~ Associated Press
BEIJING – Residents of parts of Shanghai and Beijing have been forced to undergo more rounds of COVID-19 testing after new cases were discovered in both cities, while strict restrictions remain in place in Hong Kong, Macau and other Chinese cities.
Shanghai has just emerged from a strict lockdown that has confined most of its 24 million residents to their homes for weeks and the new requirements have raised concerns of a return to such tough measures.
The latest outbreak in China’s largest city, a major international business hub, was linked to a karaoke hall that reopened without authorization during the lockdown and failed to enforce prevention measures among employees and customers, including tracking others with who they contacted, according to the municipal health commission. All these establishments have been ordered to temporarily suspend business, the city’s culture and tourism department said.
“The virus spreads quickly because these entertainment venues are mostly closed and closed, with frequent movement of people, high concentrations of people and inadequate personal protection measures,” said Zhao Dandan, deputy director of the Shanghai municipal health commission.
Apartment blocks where cases are discovered remain isolated, while mass testing in most of the city’s 16 districts has been ordered until at least Thursday. A negative test result obtained within the previous 48 hours is required to enter residential complexes and public places under the “two tests in three days” program.
A vendor wearing a face mask sells snacks on a street on Thursday in Beijing’s central business district.
Mark Schiefelbein ~ Associated Press
Entertainment companies, from water parks to chess clubs and internet cafes, are keen to reopen but face an uncertain regulatory environment.
These types of venues will be “gradually opened in an orderly and rigorous manner in accordance with the epidemic prevention and control situation in each district,” said Jin Lei, deputy director of the city’s culture and tourism bureau.
Shanghai’s lockdown has sparked unusual protests, both in person and online, against the government’s harsh enforcement, which has left many residents struggling to access food and medical services and sent thousands to quarantine centers.
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, where many foreign residents live, has been closed off with a steel fence installed at its entrance to prevent residents from leaving.
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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. .
A notice on the city government’s website said the measures were only temporary and aimed at preventing 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.
Meanwhile, 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.
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 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 previous 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.