Beijing closes parks and imposes restrictions amid fresh wave of Covid cases

Beijing has closed city parks and imposed other restrictions as the country faces a new wave of Covid-19 cases – even as millions of people in western and southern China remain in lockdown.

The country reported 10,729 new cases on Friday, almost all asymptomatic.

More than five million people are in lockdown in the southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou and the western megacity of Chongqing.

With most of Beijing’s 21 million residents undergoing tests almost daily, a further 118 new cases were recorded in the sprawling city.

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A worker in a hazmat suit signs a woman up for a Covid test at a coronavirus testing site in Beijing (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

Many city schools switched to online instruction, hospitals restricted services and some shops and restaurants have closed and their employees have been quarantined.

Videos on social media showed people in some areas protesting or fighting with police and health workers.

“It has become normal, just like eating and sleeping,” said 39-year-old catering worker Yang Zheng.

“I think what affects it the most is kids because they have to go to school.”

Demands for testing every 24 to 48 hours are “tedious,” said Ying Yiyang, who works in marketing.

Numerous villages on the outskirts of the capital, home to workers whose work keeps the city running, are locked down.

Many live in shared apartments, which taxi and ridesharing drivers say they avoid so they don’t end up in quarantine themselves.

Lockdowns in Guangzhou and elsewhere are due to end by Sunday, but authorities have repeatedly extended such restrictions without explanation.

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A worker in a hazmat suit takes a sample from a woman in a wheelchair at a coronavirus testing site in Beijing (Andy Wong/AP)

China’s leaders on Thursday vowed to respond to public frustration over its tough “zero Covid” strategy, which has locked millions in their homes and severely disrupted the economy.

The government said on Friday it was reducing the time that arriving passengers must quarantine.

The US embassy this week renewed its advice to citizens to avoid travel to and within China unless absolutely necessary.

According to a statement from the State Council, China’s cabinet, arriving passengers will be quarantined at a specific location for only five days instead of the previous seven, followed by three days of isolation at their place of residence.

It wasn’t immediately clear when and where the rules would come into effect, and whether they would apply to foreigners and Chinese citizens alike.

Relaxed standards will also apply to foreign businessmen and athletes in what appears to be a gradual normalization.

Airlines will no longer be threatened with a two-week suspension of flights if five or more passengers test positive, the regulations say, potentially leading to a significant expansion in seating on such flights, which have shrunk in number and priced since inception of restrictions has increased in 2020.

Those flying to China need only provide a single negative test for the virus within 48 hours of travel, the rules said.

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A man adjusts his mask while waiting next to a JD.com ad for Beijing’s Singles’ Day (Ng Han Guan/AP)

Previously, two tests were required within this period.

“Zero-Covid” has kept China’s infection rate relatively low, but has weighed on the economy and disrupted life, with schools, factories and businesses closing or neighborhoods locked down without warning.

With the new surge in cases, more and more areas are shutting down businesses and restricting movement.

To enter office buildings, shopping malls and other public places, people must show a negative result of a virus test at least once a day.

As economic growth weakened again after rebounding to 3.9% over a year earlier in the three months to September, forecasters had expected bolder moves to reopen the country, whose borders remain largely closed.

The President and ruling leader of the Communist Party, Xi Jinping, is expected to take a rare trip abroad next week, but has given little sign that he will back away from policies that the party closely links to social stability and the declared superiority of its policies has connected.

This was maintained by his seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, which was named at a party congress in October, which also extended Mr Xi’s political dominance by appointing him as chairman for a third five-year term.

It’s crammed with his supporters, including the former Shanghai Party leader who enforced a draconian lockdown that unleashed food shortages, closed factories and locked millions in their homes for two months or more.

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Residents wearing masks buy candied haw from a street vendor in Beijing (Ng Han Guan/AP)

People from cities with a single case in the past week are barred from visiting Beijing, while overseas travelers must quarantine in a hotel for seven to 10 days – if they are able to handle the timely and opaque process of obtaining a visa to manage something .

Business groups say this discourages foreign executives from visiting, prompting companies to shift investment plans to other countries.

Visits by US officials and politicians tasked with maintaining crucial trade ties amid tensions over tariffs, Taiwan and human rights have all but ground to a halt.

Last week, access to part of downtown Zhengzhou, home to the world’s largest iPhone factory, was blocked after residents tested positive for the virus.

Thousands of workers jumped fences and hiked highways to escape the factory, which is run by Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group.

Many sick colleagues received no help and the working conditions were unsafe.

Also last week, people posted outraged comments on social media after a three-year-old boy whose compound in the North West was under quarantine died of carbon monoxide poisoning. His father said the guards enforcing the closure refused to help and tried to stop him as he was taking his son to a hospital.

Despite such complaints, Chinese citizens have little say in policy-making under the authoritarian one-party system that tightly controls the media and public demonstrations.

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A woman wearing a face mask is closing her liquor store along with a closed traditional medicine clinic near a cordoned-off area in the neighborhood for health surveillance (Andy Wong/AP)

Speculation as to when the measures will be eased has centered on whether the government is prepared to import or domestically manufacture more effective vaccines, with the elderly population particularly at risk.

That could happen as early as next spring, when a new list of officials under Mr Xi’s continued leadership is due to be named.

Or the restrictions could last much longer if the government continues to reject the notion of living to learn with relatively low numbers of cases causing far fewer hospitalizations and deaths than at their peak.

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/beijing-closes-parks-and-imposes-restrictions-amid-fresh-wave-of-covid-cases-42136106.html Beijing closes parks and imposes restrictions amid fresh wave of Covid cases

Linh

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