Beijing orders schools closed in tightening of virus rules

Published on Apr 28, 2022 05:26 PM IST

Beijing announced 50 new cases on Thursday, two of them asymptomatic, bringing its total in the latest wave of infections to around 150

Near-empty roads during a lockdown due to Covid-19 in Shanghai, China, on Thursday. (Bloomberg)
Near-empty roads during a lockdown due to Covid-19 in Shanghai, China, on Thursday. (Bloomberg)

Beijing on Thursday locked down some communities, moved several schools online and suspended gatherings in public spaces in a scramble to prevent a Shanghai-like large-scale Covid outbreak in the Chinese capital.

The city reported 50 Covid cases for April 27, pushing the caseload to around 150 so far, amid ongoing mass nucleic acid testing of the vast majority of Beijing’s 22 million residents by Saturday.

In some of the locked down communities, located in “control areas”, new rounds of testing will be carried out on alternative days until May 4.

Children from six schools and two kindergartens accounted for 31% of the infections.

Universal Studios in Beijing said it would require visitors from Friday to show negative test results before they could enter the theme park.

For the Communist Party of China (CPC), keeping Beijing safe – and mostly running – is top priority as the party’s leadership, who stay in the city in a highly secure and secretive compound, prepares for the twice-a-decade reshuffle later this year.

Given financial hub Shanghai’s outbreak and the draining lockdown, Beijing has moved more swiftly to impose restrictions while case numbers remain low.

Shanghai, battling China’s biggest-ever coronavirus outbreak, saw new asymptomatic cases fall to 9,330 on April 27, lowest in 24 days but also registered 47 deaths, taking the death toll to 285, all reported in less than two weeks.

The outbreak is showing signs of easing across the financial hub, local authorities have said.

The vast majority of the deceased were elderly, city health officials have said with many unvaccinated and suffering from underlying health conditions.

The 47 people who died from Covid in Shanghai on April 27 had an average age of 84.7 years.

The Chinese government and doctors have justified the country’s heavy-handed, and heavily criticised internationally, “dynamic zero” response by pointing out that thousands could die and the health system could collapse if the virus spreads to its vulnerable elderly population.

“As of April 27, 226 million people over the age of 60 in China had been administered two doses of the vaccine,” Wu Liangyou, deputy director of the China’s health commission said on Thursday.

However, the number falls sharply when the elderly who have received the third dose are counted: 159.92 million people.

Overall, China has logged 553,251 Covid-19 cases since March, Wu said, adding that the epidemic has hit all Chinese provinces and regions except the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

Meanwhile, China’s passenger volume is expected to fall by more than 60% percent on a yearly basis during the upcoming May Day holidays, taking a hit from the outbreak-related restrictions across the country.

The recent outbreaks of coronavirus cases in multiple cities have impacted public appetite for long distance travel, the state-run tabloid, Global Times reported Thursday, quoting an official from the transport ministry.

“Passenger volume is expected to reach 100 million trips during this year’s holiday, down by about 62% compared with the same period last year,” the report said.

Analysts at Nomura financial services, quoted by Reuters, estimate 46 cities in China are in full or partial lockdowns or other district-wide curbs, involving strict mobility restrictions on residents, affecting the lives of more than 343 million people.

“They contribute around 40.1 trillion yuan ($6.12 trillion), or 35% of the country’s economic output”.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sutirtho Patranobis has been in Beijing since 2012, as Hindustan Times’ China correspondent. He was previously posted in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he covered the final phase of the civil war and its aftermath. Patranobis covered several beats including health and national politics in Delhi before being posted abroad.

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