Beijing Says COVID-19 Outbreak Under Control

China’s capital Beijing will loosen mobility curbs in several districts from Sunday after authorities said its outbreak is under control, while total case numbers in the financial hub of Shanghai continued to decline.

According to Xu Hejian (a spokesperson for Beijing’s city government), most public transport services, including subways, buses and taxis, will be resumed in Chaoyang. The city’s shopping centers will be permitted to reopen, but there are limits on how many people can use them. Chaoyang is home to Beijing’s central business district, most foreign embassies and expatriates.

Xu reported that there have been six days of declining new infection in Beijing. There were no reports of cases beyond the quarantine area on Friday. “This round of outbreak has been effectively controlled,” he said at a briefing Saturday.

Government officials use the community spread metric to gauge severity of outbreaks and to decide whether restrictions should be relaxed. After reporting zero incidents in consecutive days, other cities such as Shanghai began to loosen their lockdown policies.

Workers in some Beijing districts who were required to work from home previously will be allowed to return to their workplaces, and hotels and hostels in five districts on the city’s outskirts will be permitted to reopen, Xu added.

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As of Saturday afternoon, 12 local cases were reported. This is compared to a peak of nearly 100 in the previous wave. Health authorities have also gotten rid of most clusters that are still in their infancy. Officials in the capital still warned about the difficulties in trying to stop the virus spreading, as it has been present for over a month.

“Beijing is on a key stage of shifting from an emergency response to the virus outbreak to handling the situation on a more regular basis,” Xu said. “The risk of a resurgence remains and we still need to consolidate the prevention work.”

Schools, kindergartens, and universities will be closed in the city. Students are urged to return home by Xu. Restaurants will not allow dine-in, he said.

Shanghai recorded 170 infections on Friday. Only one was detected in the community during regular mass testing. Over the past week, its daily total case count has been declining steadily.

Shanghai’s challenge in controlling the virus after more than one month of harsh lockdowns highlights the difficulty in keeping it under control. Under China’s Covid Zero strategy, authorities have taken drastic measures to quarantine all those infected and isolate people exposed to them — in some cases all residents of an entire apartment block — to prevent the virus from spreading.

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On May 17, the city reached its goal to no more Covid infection in the wider community for three consecutive day. This was a critical milestone which authorities stated would enable them to begin unwinding lockdowns. One isolated case has been identified in the city over the last week. This was the latest on May 25.

A statement by the National Health Commission stated that Friday saw 264 reported local cases, with 193 patients reporting no symptoms.

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