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Beijing sees record new Covid-19 cases, reviving lockdown concerns

Tan KW
Publish date: Mon, 23 May 2022, 12:03 PM

BEIJING : Beijing reported a record number of Covid cases during its current outbreak, reviving concerns the capital may face a lockdown as authorities seek to stamp out community spread of the virus.

The city reported 99 cases for Sunday (May 22), up from 61 on Saturday. While the total is still low, the spike is one of the biggest since the outbreak started, with the case tally mostly hovering around 50 a day.

The growing outbreak in Beijing underscores the challenges China faces in following its Covid Zero approach, as the unprecedented shutdown of Shanghai sounded warnings to municipal authorities that any early mishandling of an outbreak could lead to a rapid spread of the virus.

China’s zero-tolerance strategy has become increasingly controversial in the face of the highly transmissible omicron variant, with the country left increasingly isolated from the rest of the world despite deploying harsh containment measures.

The nation reported 802 cases for Sunday, down from 824 on Saturday. That was the first time the tally was below 1,000 since March 9, and is down from a peak of almost 30,000 on April 13. Shanghai reported 558 cases on Sunday, down from 622 on Saturday. No new infections were found outside of government quarantine in the financial hub.

However, containing the outbreak has come at a crushing social and economic cost.

Millions of Shanghai residents have been confined to their homes for weeks, and even though the lockdown is easing, many restrictions remain in place.

China’s ongoing pursuit of Covid Zero means the nation is likely to remain in a loop of lockdowns and swift hardline responses until at least October’s Communist Party congress, where President Xi Jinping is expected to secure an unprecedented third term in power.

Shanghai authorities on Sunday laid out the criteria it would use to categorise parts of the city as low-risk for Covid as they look to end the lockdown. From June, districts that haven’t reported positive cases or community infections for 14 days will be defined as low-risk. Residents in high- and medium-risk areas will be restricted to their homes and be required to take a PCR test daily for 14 days.

In Beijing, authorities on the weekend reiterated that residents in six areas, including the Chaoyang central business district and the Haidian technology hub, should work from home through May 28. The city’s western Shijingshan district, the latest addition to the list, said all office areas and buildings will conduct closed-loop management and strictly control gatherings.

Five districts, including the city’s central Dongcheng district, are still reporting community spread of infections. All residents of a large housing complex were sent to quarantine after 26 cases were discovered in the compound, the Beijing Youth Daily reported on Saturday.


  - Bloomberg


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