Beijing closes 10% of subway stations to stem the spread of COVID

BEIJING – Beijing on Wednesday closed about 10% of stations in its extensive subway system as an additional measure against the spread of the coronavirus.

The metro authority, in a brief message, said only that the measure of closing 40 stations, mostly in the city center, was taken as part of epidemic control measures. No return date has been given.

Beijing is on high alert for the spread of COVID-19, with restaurants and bars limited to takeout only, gyms closed and classes suspended indefinitely. Major tourist sites in the city, including the Forbidden City and the Beijing Zoo, have closed their indoor exhibition halls and are operating at only partial capacity.

A few communities where cases have been discovered have been isolated. People residing in “controlled” areas have been told to stay within the city limits, including 12 areas deemed high risk and another 35 considered medium risk.

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Residents of the city are required to undergo three tests throughout the week as authorities seek to detect and isolate cases without imposing the kind of sweeping lockdowns seen in Shanghai and elsewhere. A negative test result obtained within the previous 48 hours is required to enter most public areas.

Beijing recorded just 51 new cases on Wednesday, five of them asymptomatic.

The subway closures are expected to have relatively little impact on city life, with China observing the Labor Day holiday this week and many commuters in the city of 21 million already working from home.

In a downtown area classified as high-risk on Wednesday, the streets were virtually deserted except for a few delivery drivers on scooters and the occasional pedestrian and car.

All businesses have been closed except supermarkets and fruit and vegetable stores. Strangers generally avoid high-risk areas to avoid the possibility of their presence registering on tracking apps installed on virtually all mobile phones, creating potential problems for future access to public areas.

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While taking a lighter touch in Beijing, China has generally stuck to its strict “zero-COVID” approach that restricts travel, tests entire cities and sets up sprawling facilities to try to isolate each infected person. Lockdowns start with buildings and neighborhoods, but spread across the city if the virus spreads widely.

It has caused the most disruption in Shanghai, where authorities are slowly easing restrictions that have confined most of the city’s 26 million residents to their apartments, housing compounds or immediate neighborhoods for nearly a month. , and in some cases longer.

Shanghai reported another 4,982 cases on Wednesday, all but 260 asymptomatic, along with 16 more deaths. This continues a steady decline in China’s largest city which saw a daily peak of 27,605 new cases nearly three weeks ago on April 13.

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The surprisingly low death toll amid an outbreak of more than 400,000 cases in the city that hosts China’s main stock market and biggest port has sparked questions about how those deaths are counted.

The rigid and widely derided restrictions have led to shortages of food and medical aid as well as a wider – though probably temporary – impact on the national economy. Desperate and outraged citizens clashed with authorities at barricades and in line, shouting from their windows and banging pots and pans in frustration and anger.

Communist authorities who tolerate no dissent have sought to erase these protests from the internet and have blamed the protests, including the slamming of cooking utensils, on the agitation of unidentified “foreign anti-Chinese forces”.

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