Beijing is closing all schools in the city to further tighten COVID-19 restrictions, as China’s capital seeks to contain a wider outbreak.
The city of 21 million has already ordered three rounds of mass testing with the third coming Friday this week.
On Thursday, the city’s education bureau ordered all schools to end classes from Friday and said it had not been determined when they would resume.
It was also unclear whether schools would offer online classes or allow students facing important exams to return to class.
Beijing on Thursday announced 50 new cases, two of which are asymptomatic, bringing its total to nearly 150 in the latest wave of infections.
With clusters attached to six schools and two kindergartens in Chaoyang, students make up more than 30 percent of the total cases.
Also on Thursday, residents of two housing complexes in Beijing’s Chaoyang district were ordered to stay inside and some clinics and businesses were closed.
Beijing has moved to impose restrictions more quickly than many Chinese cities, while case numbers remain low and the scale of the outbreak still manageable.
The goal is to avoid the sweeping measures imposed on Shanghai, where the highly permeable Omicron variant has exploded in a city of 25 million. Restrictions on many Shanghai residents confined to their homes are now in their fourth week and all schools have been online since last month.
The strict measures have sparked anger and frustration over a lack of food and basic supplies, hospitals’ inability to deal with other health emergencies, and the poor situation at centralized quarantine sites, where anyone who tests positive – or even that contacts a positive case – requires to be dispatched.
The National Health Commission on Thursday reported 11,285 new cases in mainland China, most of them asymptomatic, and the vast majority in Shanghai, where there were an additional 47 deaths.
Shanghai city officials said on Wednesday they would analyze the results of a new round of testing to determine which neighborhoods can safely expand freedom of movement for residents.
Shanghai wants to achieve “social zero COVID”, whereby new cases are found only in people who are already under surveillance, such as in centralized quarantine, or in people who are believed to be close contacts. This indicates that the chain of transmission in the open community has been broken, reducing the risk of new clusters forming from previously known sources.
Efforts to increase vaccination rate among the elderly
While China’s overall vaccination rate is around 90 percent, only 62 percent of people over the age of 60 have been vaccinated in Shanghai, the country’s largest and wealthiest city. The city’s health commission said on Thursday that health workers are visiting elderly residents at home to boost that figure.
The pandemic and stringent lockdown measures have taken a toll on the economy, especially in Shanghai, which is home to the world’s busiest port and main stock market in China, as well as a large international business community.
According to an analysis by ING Bank earlier this month, the city’s closure for the entire month would cut China’s annual economic growth by two percent. The lockdown could also affect spring planting, driving up food prices, while transportation has also been hit hard.
many flights canceled
According to online state media source The Paper, 80 percent of flights were canceled on Thursday at Baiyun Airport, Guangzhou’s southern manufacturing hub, after “abnormal results” were found when testing airport staff.
Travel, especially between provinces and cities, is expected to decrease during the May Day holiday next week. China’s international borders have remained largely closed since the outbreak of COVID-19 was first discovered in the central city of Wuhan.
Despite Beijing’s promises to reduce the human and economic costs of its strict “zero COVID” strategy, leaders of President Xi Jinping refuse to join the United States and other governments in trying to bypass sanctions and live with the virus. has done.
All 13 of China’s 100 largest cities by economic output were subject to some form of sanctions earlier this month, according to a research firm Gawekal Dragonomics.