Photo: The Canadian Press
A resident looks out from behind a fortified fence at a gated apartment complex in Beijing.
Beijing is closing all schools in the city as part of a further tightening of COVID-19 restrictions, as the Chinese capital seeks to prevent a wider outbreak.
The city of 21 million has already ordered three rounds of mass testing this week, and the third next Friday.
On Thursday, the city’s education office ordered all schools to end classes starting Friday, and said it did not say when they would resume.
It was also unclear whether schools would be able to offer online lessons or allow students facing critical tests to return to class.
Beijing announced 50 new cases on Thursday, including two asymptomatic ones, bringing the total of the latest wave of infections to around 150.
Students account for more than 30% of the total number of cases, with groups linked to six schools and a kindergarten in Chaoyang.
Also on Thursday, residents of two apartment complexes in Beijing’s Chaoyang district were ordered to stay indoors and some clinics and businesses were closed.
Beijing has moved faster than many Chinese cities to impose restrictions as case numbers remain low and the scale of the outbreak remains under control.
The aim is to avoid the kind of sweeping action imposed on Shanghai, as a hugely emotional omicron variant tore through the city of 25 million. The restrictions on many Shanghai residents are now in their fourth week and all schools have been online since last month.
The crackdown has sparked anger and frustration over shortages of food and essential supplies, the inability of hospitals to deal with other health emergencies, and poor conditions at central quarantine sites where everyone must test positive – or even come into contact with a positive case. be sent.
On Thursday, the National Health Commission reported 11,285 new cases across mainland China, most asymptomatic and the vast majority in Shanghai, where 47 more deaths were reported.
Shanghai city authorities said on Wednesday they would analyze the results of new rounds of tests to determine which neighborhoods can safely expand residents’ freedom of movement.
Shanghai is striving to achieve “COVID community zero” as there are only new cases among people who are already under observation, such as in central quarantine, or among those considered close contacts.
This may signal the breaking of chains of transmission in the open society, reducing the risk of new groups forming from previously unknown sources.
While China’s overall vaccination rate is around 90%, only 62% of people over 60 have been vaccinated in Shanghai, the country’s largest and wealthiest city. The city’s health commission said Thursday that health workers are visiting elderly residents at home to administer vaccines in a bid to increase that number.
The pandemic and strict containment measures have wreaked havoc on the economy, especially in Shanghai, which has the world’s busiest port and China’s main stock market, as well as a large international business community.
A month-long city shutdown will slash China’s annual economic growth by 2%, according to an analysis by ING Bank earlier this month. The closures could also affect spring plantings, driving up food prices, while transport is hit hard.
Baiyun Airport in the southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou saw 80% of flights canceled on Thursday after ‘abnormal results’ were found during tests by airport staff, according to the official online media source. ThePaper.
Travel is expected to decline, especially between counties and cities, during the Labor Day holiday next week. China’s international borders have remained largely closed since the COVID-19 outbreak was first detected in the central city of Wuhan.
Despite Beijing’s promises to reduce the human and economic cost of its difficult “zero COVID” strategy, President Xi Jinping’s leaders have ruled out joining the United States and other governments that are dropping restrictions and trying to live with the virus. virus.
According to research firm Gavekal Dragonomics, all but 13 of China’s top 100 cities by economic output were under some form of restrictions at the start of the month.