BEIJING — Residents of parts of Shanghai and Beijing have been ordered to undergo further rounds of COVID-19 testing following the discovery of new cases in the two cities, while tight restrictions remain in place in Hong Kong, Macao and other Chinese cities.
Shanghai just came out of an extended lockdown, which had kept the majority of its residents in Shanghai for many weeks. These new measures have raised fears of another round of these harsh restrictions.
The latest outbreak in China’s largest city, a key international business center, has been linked to a karaoke parlor that failed to enforce prevention measures among employees and customers, including the tracing of others they came into contact with, according to the city health commission. All such outlets have been ordered to temporarily suspend business, the city’s department of culture and tourism said.
Shanghai’s lockdown prompted 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.
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A recent epidemic in Beijing was also linked to Beijing’s nightlife scene. The agency has been carrying out regular tests for several weeks. At least one residence in Shunyi that is home to many international residents has been secured with a steel barrier at its entry to stop residents leaving.
Enforcement in China’s capital has been far milder than in Shanghai, although officials continue to require regular testing and prevention measures.
In the northern city of Xi’an, whose 13 million residents endured one of China’s strictest lockdowns over the winter, restaurants have been restricted to takeout only and public entertainment spots closed for a week starting Wednesday.
A notice on the city government’s website said the measures were only temporary and intended to prevent the chance of a renewed outbreak. According to the notice, supermarkets and offices as well as public transport are still operating normally. People are asked to complete an application to verify that they have not contracted any disease.
Following the discovery of cases, Macao, an important gambling destination has locked down its famous Grand Lisboa Hotel. 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.
Authorities have ordered most establishments to close with the exception of casinos, which are Macao’s main revenue generator and among the city’s largest employers.
Three COVID-19 testing will be performed on city residents this week. The local outbreak is Macao’s largest since the pandemic began, with more than 900 infections reported since mid-June.
Since mid-June, coronavirus infection rates have been rising in Hong Kong. Daily infections have averaged around 2,000 per day over the last seven days.
The city’s new leader, John Lee, said Wednesday that Hong Kong must not “lie flat” 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 authorities, who have stuck with their “zero-COVID” policy that has become closely identified with President and head of the ruling Communist Party Xi Jinping.
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Lee said however that Hong Kong authorities have been exploring various options. They may consider shortening mandatory quarantine periods for inbound travelers. Travelers must be negative for COVID-19 to fly and stay in quarantine at designated hotels for seven days.
This once bustling city was once a hub for international business and financial centers. However, it has now seen a decline in tourism and business travel due to its strict entry requirements.
The strict measures have remained in place despite relatively low numbers of cases and the serious negative effects on China’s economy and global supply chains.
Recently, the World Health Organization called this policy unsustainable. Chinese officials refused to accept the view even though they said they hoped to limit its impact.
While China’s borders remain largely closed, cutting off both visitors from abroad and outbound tourism, officials have cautiously increased flights from some foreign countries, most recently Russia.
Mainland China has reported 353 cases domestic transmission, of which 241 were asymptomatic.
Shanghai reported only 24 cases in the last 24 hours and Beijing, five. Anhui reported 222 cases within the most recent cluster. This prompted the province of inland to request mass testing in Si county and to restrict travel to that area, which is where the majority of the cases are currently being reported.
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