Beijing, May 5 (EFE).- Chinese authorities are intensifying travel controls, carrying out mass tests on the population and recommending remote working in large cities like Beijing to curb the latest Omicron-fueled wave of coronavirus infections.
The capital registered 42 new confirmed cases of Covid on Thursday morning, and another 39 in the afternoon, bringing the total number of infections since the start of the outbreak currently affecting the city to 544.
The figures are worrying enough for local authorities to impose a series of tough measures to prevent infections and reinforce the state’s “zero-Covid” policy after the holidays marking Labor Day on May 1.
Thursday saw the end of a period of three consecutive days in which residents of the Chaoyang district, the most affected and where embassies and the business district are located, had to take daily nucleic acid tests.
A negative test result no more than 48 hours old is required to enter the few spaces in the city that remain open — restaurants, gyms and other indoor establishments are all closed.
The fact that up to 60 subway stations and several bus routes have been closed in the district has prompted the city government to encourage residents to work from home or use their own means — in many cases bicycles — to get to work.
TOURIST NUMBERS FALL
Meanwhile, the effect of the restrictions is already being shown in declining spending rates, which fell during the May holiday: train travel was down 30.2% year-on-year, and domestic tourism revenues were down 42.9% compared to 2021.
Box offices at movie theaters also fell by 81% and hotel prices by 50% compared to the same period last year, according to official statistics released on Thursday.
But the situation is still particularly serious in Shanghai, which remains completely locked down: 261 new cases were reported on Thursday, a slight upturn after almost two consecutive weeks of falling infections.
The city has registered more than 580,000 cases in total. Almost 9,000 PCR testing stations have been set up in an effort to control the situation.
Chinese authorities say that their “zero-Covid” policy aims to preserve the health of people over 60 years of age who are still not fully vaccinated, amid fears of a possible collapse in hospitals if the measures being implemented are eased.
Apart from Beijing and Shanghai, the wave of infections continues to spread to several areas of the country, with cases of community transmission reported in provinces such as Canton (south), Zhejiang and Henan (center), where the provincial capital, Zhengzhou, has also imposed travel restrictions until May 10.
NEW RULES FOR ARRIVALS FROM ABROAD
In March, China marked two years since it closed its borders to most foreigners, set quarantines of at least two weeks — in state designated hotels — for anyone entering the country, and limited international air traffic to about 2% of pre-pandemic levels.
While that policy will remain for the foreseeable future, there have been some tweaks, as suggested by the fact that Beijing on Wednesday night updated the rules for entering the city from other countries.
Under the new measures, international passengers wanting to enter Beijing will go from a mandatory 14- or 21-day quarantine in a hotel to a 10-day quarantine followed by seven days at the traveler’s home.
Experts say that they will take this measure because of the shorter incubation period required by the Omicron variant, which is causing the largest wave of cases in the Asian country since the pandemic began. EFE