(ORDO NEWS) — Beijing has been put on high alert due to the spread of COVID-19. Restaurants and bars have been closed for takeaways, gyms have been closed and schools have been suspended indefinitely.
The city’s main tourist sites, including the Forbidden City and the Beijing Zoo, have closed their indoor exhibition halls and are only operating at partial capacity. Several communities where cases were found have been isolated.
Residents of “controlled” areas were told to stay within city limits, including 12 high-risk areas and another 35 medium-risk areas.
Residents of the city must take three tests within a week as authorities try to identify and isolate cases without resorting to the same measures as in Shanghai and elsewhere. Most public places require a negative test result obtained within the previous 48 hours to enter.
On Wednesday, only 51 new cases were reported in Beijing, five of which were asymptomatic. The subway closures should have a relatively small impact on the city as China celebrates Labor Day this week and many commuters in the city of 21 million are already working from home.
In one of the high-risk areas of the city center, the streets were virtually deserted on Wednesday, apart from a few delivery drivers on scooters and the occasional pedestrian and car.
All businesses were closed, with the exception of supermarkets and shops selling vegetables and fruits. Bystanders typically avoid high-risk areas to avoid the possibility of their presence being recorded by the tracking applications installed on almost all mobile phones, which poses potential problems for future access to public places.
While Beijing is taking it more lightly, in general China is sticking to its strict “zero-COVID” approach, which is restricting travel, screening entire cities and setting up vast facilities to try and isolate every infected person. Isolation starts with buildings and neighborhoods, but if the virus spreads widely, it becomes citywide.
It has caused the most disruption in Shanghai, where authorities are slowly easing restrictions that have kept most of the city’s 26 million residents confined to their apartments, apartment complexes or immediate neighborhoods for nearly a month, in some cases longer.
Shanghai reported Wednesday an additional 4,982 cases, all but 260 of which were asymptomatic, and 16 more deaths. The surprisingly low death toll amid an outbreak of more than 400,000 cases in the city, home to China’s main stock market and largest port, has raised questions about how such deaths are counted.
Severe and widely derided restrictions led to shortages of food and medical care, and had a larger – though probably temporary – impact on the national economy.
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