BEIJING ( Associated Press) – Beijing on Wednesday closed more than 10% of stations on its vast subway network as an additional measure against the spread of the coronavirus.
Forty stations were closed in the morning, and 20 more were added in the afternoon. The metro authority had indicated in a brief message that the stations were closed as part of pandemic control measures, most of them in the centre. No date was given for the reopening of the service.
The capital of China is on alert for COVID-19 infection. Restaurants and bars only serve takeout or delivery, gyms have closed and face-to-face classes have been suspended indefinitely. Major city tourist attractions such as the Forbidden City and Beijing Zoo have closed their indoor exhibition halls and are operating at partial capacity.
Some communities where cases were identified have been isolated. Residents of “controlled” areas have been ordered to stay within city limits, which includes 12 high-risk areas and 35 intermediate-risk areas.
City residents would have to take three tests throughout the week to identify and isolate cases without having to enforce stricter quarantines in Shanghai and elsewhere. Access to most public places requires a negative test within the past 48 hours.
Beijing on Wednesday reported just 51 new cases, of which five were asymptomatic.
Station closures should have relatively little impact on life in the city, as China has several Labor Day holidays this week and many in the city of 21 million were already working from home.
In high-risk city neighbourhoods, streets were nearly empty on Wednesday except for some delivery men on motorcycles and sometimes pedestrians or cars.
All businesses were closed except supermarkets and fruit and vegetable shops.
In general, residents of other neighborhoods avoid high-risk areas to avoid the possibility that the tracking apps installed on almost all cell phones will give them problems accessing public places later.
Although it has taken a milder approach in Beijing, China has generally stuck to its zero-COVID policy, which restricts travel, imposes testing on entire cities and tries to isolate all infected people. To do involves setting up huge compounds. Quarantine begins in buildings and neighborhoods, but ends in entire cities as the virus spreads.
The hardest-hit city has been Shanghai, where officials were gradually lifting measures that limit most of its 26 million people for nearly a month, and in some cases even longer.
Shanghai on Wednesday reported another 4,982 cases, all except 260 of which were asymptomatic, as well as another 16 deaths. The numbers continued to fall in China’s largest city, which on April 13 reported 27,605 new cases daily.
The particularly low death toll in the outbreak of more than 400,000 cases in the country’s largest stock exchange and largest port city has raised questions about how those deaths are counted.
The harsh and much criticized sanctions have led to a shortage of food and health care, as well as a widespread – albeit temporary – effect on the national economy. Desperate and outraged citizens have confronted officers at barricades and online, shouting from their windows and banging pots and pans in a sign of their frustration and outrage.
Communist officials who do not tolerate dissent have tried to remove such protests from the Internet, and have attributed the complaints, including Pulao, to agitations caused by “foreign anti-Chinese forces”.
As part of the reopening, Shanghai this week began ordering health institutions to resume services where possible.
Patients filled waiting rooms at Central Huashan Hospital and lines spread outside some departments. Although the number of patients was about two-thirds less than in the previous wave, their condition was more serious.
Huashan’s deputy director of dermatology, Wu Wenyu, said he was treating patients who had delayed treatment because of the outbreak, some from cities outside Shanghai.
“For example, a patient with shingles will be in a lot of pain. He may feel very bad at home, but he couldn’t go to the hospital because of COVID,” Wu explained. “But now many patients come to see the doctor.”
Hospital administrators said they had scheduled appointments to avoid crowds.
In some residential centers only one member of each family was allowed to go out twice a week to shop, in some cases even to pick up goods for neighbours.
Ling Jiazhao, manager of a supermarket in Pudong’s East District, said the store was limiting customers to 50 at a time.
“I hope this does not lead to overcrowding. Each community has two to four hours to make a purchase, so most members will complete it within an hour,” Ling said.