BEIJING ( Associated Press) — Hong Kong reopened beaches and pools and eased other pandemic restrictions on Thursday, a day after China’s capital, Beijing, announced it would ease its strict quarantine rules for arrivals from overseas. .
watch: Frustration and anger among Shanghai residents as China doubles down on zero-COVID policy
The two Chinese cities are on opposite ends of the COVID-19 outbreak. Hong Kong is emerging from its deadliest wave ever, which killed 9,000 people. In Beijing, a new wave is just beginning and authorities have imposed a slew of restrictions on residents to try to smell it.
The easing of quarantine requirements was a reminder that China is finally looking to back away from its strict “zero-Covid” approach that is imposing rising economic and human costs, although officials are in no inclination to do so in a meaningful way anytime soon. is shown.
In Hong Kong, rising costs have sparked a backlash against “zero COVID”. The city closed water sports venues during the outbreak of the highly permeable Omicron variant, but is easing restrictions as cases decline. Deaths from COVID-19 have fallen from a high of around 300 per day in March to zero in recent days.
The restaurant is allowed to seat up to eight customers per table – up from the first four – and will not require masks during outdoor practice, a change that is significant for organizers of group sporting events.
“We are looking forward to Mother’s Day, and are able to seat up to eight people at one table,” said William So, assistant general manager of the London restaurant.
“Business will increase, three generations of a family can sit together and eat together,” so, as carts stacked high with bamboo baskets of delicious dumplings circulate through the full dining room. He added that bookings have more than doubled since the announcement of the already comfortable seating policy.
Another round of easing is set to begin on May 19, when bars and clubs will be allowed to reopen and restaurants in the southern Chinese city will be allowed to serve customers until midnight.
Read more: Beijing closes some subway stations to prevent the spread of COVID-19
China has maintained its “zero-Covid” approach but imposed less stringent restrictions in Beijing than in other cities such as Shanghai, where millions were placed under strict lockdown.
Beijing will now require arrivals from abroad to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days, followed by another week of home isolation.
Previous rules required 21 days of isolation, at least 14 of them in a hotel, followed by seven days of regular health reporting.
With only a small number of daily international flights into Beijing, the rule change is expected to have an immediate effect on arrivals. However, symbolically, it shows a willingness to compromise with the demands of a less intrusive and economically harmful policy.
Still, the capital is taking no chances and on Wednesday closed 60 metro stations, more than 10% of its sprawling system, to reduce the chances of the virus spreading.
Restaurants and bars are limited to takeout, gyms are closed and classes are suspended for at least another week. Major tourist destinations in the city, including the Forbidden City and Beijing Zoo, have closed their indoor exhibition halls and are operating only at partial capacity.
Read more: Shanghai seeks ‘social zero COVID’ amid lockdown
The districts have been ranked according to the perceived level of COVID-19 risk in each, and people living in the highest-rated districts have been barred from leaving the city. Some communities where the cases were discovered have been isolated.
All residents undergo three virus tests during the week as officials try to trace and isolate cases without enforcing the widespread lockdowns seen in Shanghai and elsewhere. It is necessary to obtain a negative test result within the past 48 hours to enter most public places.
Beijing on Thursday reported just 50 new cases, of which eight were asymptomatic.
Shanghai saw a decline of 4,651 new cases, with an additional 13 deaths, but all but 261 are asymptomatic. On April 13, 27,605 new cases were reported daily in China’s largest city.
Questions have been raised about the surprisingly low death toll amid an outbreak of more than 400,000 cases in China’s main stock market and largest port city.