Beijing, May 4 (BUS): 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 said in a short message only that the measure to close 40 stations, most of them in the city center, was taken as part of epidemic control measures. The Associated Press (AP) reported that no date has been set for the service’s resumption.
Beijing has been on high alert for the spread of COVID-19, with restaurants and bars restricted to takeout only, gyms closed and classes suspended indefinitely. The city’s major tourist sites, including the Forbidden City and the Beijing Zoo, have closed indoor exhibition halls and are operating at only partial capacity.
Few of the communities in which cases have been detected have been isolated. People living in “controlled” areas have been told to stay within city limits, including 12 areas considered high risk and another 35 considered medium risk.
City residents are being asked to undergo three tests over the course of a week as authorities seek to find and isolate cases without imposing the kind of blanket lockdowns seen in Shanghai and elsewhere. A negative test result obtained within the last 48 hours is required to enter most public places.
On Wednesday, Beijing recorded only 51 new cases, five of which were asymptomatic.
The subway shutdown should have a relatively small impact on city life, as China celebrates Labor Day this week and many commuters in the city of 21 million are already working from their homes.
In a downtown neighborhood rated as high-risk on Wednesday, the streets were virtually deserted except for a few delivery drivers on scooters, pedestrians and the occasional car.
All businesses were closed except for supermarkets and fruit and vegetable stores. Strangers generally avoid high-risk areas to avoid the possibility of their presence being logged on tracking apps installed on almost all mobile phones, creating potential problems for accessing public areas in the future.
Taking a lighter touch in Beijing, China has generally adhered to its strict “zero COVID” approach restricting travel, testing entire cities and setting up sprawling facilities to try to isolate every infected person. Lockdowns start with buildings and neighborhoods but spread citywide if the virus spreads widely.
That has caused the most disruption in Shanghai, as authorities slowly work to ease restrictions that have trapped most of the city’s 26 million residents in their apartments, apartment complexes or neighborhoods for nearly a month, and in some cases longer.
Shanghai reported 4,982 more cases on Wednesday, all but 260 of them asymptomatic, along with 16 additional deaths. This steady decline continues in China’s largest city, which recorded a daily peak of 27,605 new cases nearly three weeks ago on April 13.
The sudden drop in the death toll amid an outbreak of more than 400,000 cases in the city that includes China’s main stock market and largest port has raised questions about how those deaths are counted.
The widely draconian and ridiculous restrictions have led to shortages of food and medical aid as well as a broader – albeit likely temporary – impact on the national economy. Desperate, angry citizens confronted authorities at barricades and online, screaming outside their windows and banging pots and pans in a sign of their frustration and anger.
Communist authorities who do not tolerate any dissent have sought to block such protests from the internet and have blamed the protests, including the beating of cookware, on incitement by unidentified “foreign anti-China forces”.