Beijing races to contain ‘urgent and grim’ Covid outbreak as Shanghai lockdown continues

Beijing officials told a news conference on Saturday that they were tracking cases in several districts and involving students, tour groups and interior decoration workers. The capital reported 22 new local cases on Saturday, national health authorities said on Sunday 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,” Mayor Tian Wei told reporters on Saturday. “The entire city must act immediately.”

Pressure to contain the outbreak in the capital comes as cases continue to grow in Shanghai, despite a weeks-long failed lockdown that has brought the financial hub to a standstill. The city reported more than 20,000 new cases on Saturday, according to national figures released Sunday morning.

Shanghai officials also announced 39 new deaths among COVID-19 patients on Sunday. That marks a record since city officials first reported deaths in the city’s ongoing outbreak on Monday, though questions have been raised about whether the numbers represent all deaths.

In Beijing, authorities moved to curb transmission as more than 20 cases were detected in the capital during a period from midnight Friday morning to 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon, officials said. A high school where multiple cases were detected was closed Friday, with students and teachers in the district due to take multiple tests for Covid-19 over the next week.

Several residential communities in the same district were also placed under “control management,” according to state media, using a term that generally means residents are prohibited from leaving the area while undergoing tests.

Officials also discourage parents from traveling outside the city due to the risk of bringing the infection back.

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

The rush to contain the outbreak comes as fears grow in China that tougher measures may 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 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, many of which were unprepared when departing officials quickly changed course late last month.
The restrictions have also spread to other areas with several dozen cities implementing some form of lockdown restrictions, according to a tally earlier this month. New local cases were reported in 19 provinces on Saturday, according to national data.