China’s capital rushes to contain a covid-19 outbreak

Hong Kong (CNN) — Beijing is rushing to track down a Covid-19 outbreak that may have been spreading in the capital for a week, city authorities said over the weekend, raising the possibility that tougher online restrictions will soon be put in place. with other Chinese cities.

Chaoyang, one of the city’s largest districts, announced on Sunday that it would launch three rounds of mass testing for those who work and live in the district, some 3.5 million residents, according to the latest census.

The announcement came after 11 cases were detected in a 24-hour period, prompting panic buying in the district, which includes the business center and several foreign embassies, as residents rushed to stock up on basic goods. in the event of a lockdown despite assurances from the authorities that supplies were plentiful.

Beijing authorities said over the weekend they were tracking cases in several districts involving students, tour groups and interior decoration workers. The capital recorded 19 new local cases on Sunday, bringing the total in the city since April 22 to 60, according to national health data released Monday morning.

“The city has recently seen several outbreaks involving multiple chains of transmission, and the risk of continued and undetected transmission is high. The situation is urgent and grim,” municipal official Tian Wei told reporters on Saturday. “The entire city must act immediately.”

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Pressure to contain the outbreak in the capital is mounting as cases continue to grow in Shanghai, despite a failed weeks-long lockdown that has brought the financial hub to a standstill. The city reported more than 19,000 new cases and 51 deaths on Sunday, according to official figures released Monday morning.

The daily death count marks a record since city officials first reported fatalities in the city’s ongoing outbreak last Monday, though questions have been raised about whether the numbers represent all deaths.

In Beijing, authorities moved to curb transmission, placing several residential communities in Chaoyang under “control management,” according to state media, using a term that generally means residents are prohibited from leaving the area while undergoing tests. A district official warned on Sunday that business and work disruptions were inevitable in the course of fighting the outbreak.

Detection would increase in tour groups in the city, after cases were detected among a group of mainly elderly tourists who were now in quarantine, officials said on Saturday. At least one village in a suburban district of Beijing linked to a positive case was also put on lockdown while mass testing was carried out.

The rush to contain the outbreak comes as fears grow in China that tougher measures could be taken as the country sticks to a strict “Covid Zero” policy to eliminate the spread of the virus in each outbreak.

That policy has faced its toughest challenge since March 1, when the highly transmissible omicron variant sparked several simultaneous outbreaks. The case count has soared to unprecedented levels in China, fueled by large outbreaks in the northeastern province of Jilin and Shanghai.

Lockdowns and forced quarantines in Shanghai have sparked anger and despair among citizens, who have struggled to access food and medical care. The city had previously said it would not implement a full citywide shutdown, leaving many off guard when officials quickly changed course late last month.

The restrictions have also spread to other areas with several dozen cities implementing some form of stay-at-home restrictions, according to a tally earlier this month.

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