Beijing returns to work after 5-day break on high alert for COVID

Beijing, May. 5 (US): Beijing returned to work Thursday after a five-day Labor Day holiday in the Chinese capital on high alert from COVID as it tries to stem an outbreak that has managed to limit it to dozens of new cases per day for nearly two weeks.

Reuters reports that authorities in Beijing are determined to avoid the fate of Shanghai, China’s commercial hub, where most of its 25 million residents have endured more than a month of increasingly frustrating confinement to their apartment complexes.

The capital’s streets were a little less crowded than on a normal working day as authorities encouraged people to work from home, and the closure of dozens of bus lines and more than 10% of subway stations as part of coronavirus precautions complicated commuting.

Transportation officials have also asked passenger platforms to limit activity in some parts of the city.

However, many subway trains seemed to be crowded and office areas were crowded. Lots of people take bikes to get around.

Amid a flurry of new restrictions in recent days, Beijing residents hoping to take a subway or bus ride are required to get a negative COVID test, but few checks appear to have been done.

“At the moment, I feel relatively safe at work and where I live, but I don’t dare run outside because I still feel that the outbreak has not reached its peak,” said Chef Liu Wentao.

Beijing fared better two weeks into the outbreak than Shanghai at that point, when daily cases were in the hundreds and increasing.

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The apparent success in controlling the outbreak has enabled the authorities to make minor adjustments to the restrictions.

Some small parts of Chaoyang District, the epicenter of the outbreak in Beijing, which has imposed movement restrictions, allowed people to go to work on Thursday although they were encouraged to work from home if possible and avoid gatherings.

Some isolated closures of apartment buildings and the closure of gyms, restaurants and other venues remained in place.

In Shanghai, while authorities say movement restrictions have gradually eased in recent days in more areas, there has been little change for many people living in communities under lockdown.

China’s hardline “no COVID” policy looks increasingly alien to the outside world easing or lifting restrictions altogether in an effort to live with a disease that authorities in those places have concluded can never be eradicated.

China says its policy saves lives, making the huge economic and psychological costs of lockdowns worth it.

Officials point to millions of deaths from the coronavirus outside China while the official number of deaths since the virus emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 is just over 5,000.

Vice Premier Sun Chunlan said in Shanghai on Sunday that communities without new cases for seven days should be allowed to return to “normal social order”.

However, the often arbitrary application of the rules is a concern for Shanghai residents.

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In some societies, the people who enforce the rules only allow one member of each household to be outside for a few hours a day.

Elsewhere, no one is allowed outside even though the level of risk in society is officially low.

Law enforcement denies being told they can loosen the rules, and residents struggle to determine exactly who has the power to loosen them.

In some areas, buildings are assigned stars according to the time the last COVID cases were recorded with the highest five-star rating indicating no new cases for at least two months.

On Thursday, a WeChat group of residents locked into a building of nearly 100 apartments in the city’s Changning District celebrated the celebration by finally receiving five stars.

“Great. Can I take the dog for a walk?” asked one of the residents.

The building’s volunteer manager replied, “I’m sorry, at the moment we are not allowed to take dogs for walks.”


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