China’s capital has moved school online in one of its major districts amid a fresh COVID-19 outbreak linked to a nightclub, while life has yet to return to normal in Shanghai despite lifting a lockdown of more than two months.
China is sticking to its “zero-COVID” policy requiring mass testing, quarantines and sequestration of anyone who has come into contact with an infected person in concentrated places with generally poor hygiene.
A total of 166 cases have been linked to the Heaven Supermarket club in the downtown nightlife area of Gongti after an infected person visited there on Thursday. Of these, 145 were customers, while the rest were staff or people with whom the customers had subsequent contact.
The entire area, along with the adjacent Sanlitun shopping and dining complex, has been closed until further notice.
The outbreak has prompted authorities in sprawling Chaoyang District to bring school back online, except for students taking middle and high school placement exams. Sports gatherings in the city have also been suspended.
Chaoyang ordered daily mass testing, with long lines and wait times of two hours or more.
In Shanghai, 502 people have been linked to three positive tests detected among customers of the Red Rose Beauty Salon on Thursday. Those involved come from 15 districts in the city of 25 million, prompting the first large-scale restrictions since the lockdown officially ended on June 1.
With mass testing and movement restrictions back in force, the streets and supermarkets again emptied over the weekend.
Failure to be tested will result in a code yellow being displayed on a person’s health status app, barring them from all public places.
Most students are staying home and all but a few restaurants are only open for takeout. Many customers simply grab their food and drink on the steps next to the blooming flower bushes outside the establishments.
While 22 million Shanghai residents were released from lockdown nearly two weeks ago, 220,000 people are still confined to their homes under a rule requiring no positive cases to be found in their homes. residential complexes for more than 10 days. Another 600,000 are in control areas, where their movements are restricted within their concessions.
Corrugated iron fences and other barriers continue to block neighborhoods and businesses, leading to further discontent and complaints from residents who remain confined.
The strict implementation of lockdowns, along with a lack of information and poor distribution of food and other daily necessities, have led to rarely seen displays of anger and despair. Residents clashed with workers and police who became known as ‘tall whites’ for the protective gear they wear, posted protest videos online and coordinated shouting and beatings nights to let off steam.
The easing of restrictions led to an exodus of non-residents from Shanghai, including foreigners, who had found themselves trapped in the lockdown.
Despite the recent outbreak, Beijing reported only 51 new cases on Monday, 22 of them asymptomatic. Residents of the city are still undergoing regular testing – mostly every other day – and must wear masks and swipe a cellphone app to enter public places and help find cases.
China has maintained its “zero-COVID” policy despite huge economic costs and a claim from the head of the World Health Organization that the policy is not sustainable.
Nationally, China has reported only 143 cases, almost all of them in Beijing and Shanghai. The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China remained static at 5,226.
Associated Press researcher Si Chen in Shanghai contributed to this report.