Beijing closes all schools on Friday to fight the spread of COVID-19

Beijing is closing all schools in the city as part of a further tightening of COVID-19 restrictions, as the Chinese capital seeks to prevent a wider outbreak.

The city of 21 million has already ordered three rounds of mass testing this week, with the third coming on Friday.

On Thursday, the city’s education office ordered all schools to end classes starting Friday and said it had not determined when they would resume.

It was also unclear whether schools would offer online lessons or allow students facing crucial exams to return to class.

Beijing announced 50 new cases on Thursday, including two asymptomatic, bringing its total in the latest wave of infections to around 150.

Students account for more than 30% of the total number of cases, with clusters linked to six schools and two kindergartens in Chaoyang.

Also on Thursday, residents of two housing compounds in Beijing’s Chaoyang district were ordered to stay indoors and some clinics and businesses were closed.

Quick taxation

Beijing has moved faster than many Chinese cities to impose restrictions as case numbers remain low and the scale of the outbreak is still manageable.

The goal is to avoid the kind of drastic measures imposed in Shanghai, where the highly transmissible variant of Omicron tore through the city of 25 million. Restrictions confining many Shanghai residents to their homes are now in their fourth week and all schools have been online since last month.

The strict measures have sparked anger and frustration over shortages of food and basic supplies, the inability of hospitals to deal with other health emergencies and poor conditions at centralized quarantine sites where anyone tested positive – or even in contact with a positive case – is required to be sent.

WATCH | Beijing begins mass testing after 26 COVID-19 cases reported on Sunday:

Beijing begins mass testing after 26 COVID-19 cases reported on Sunday

The National Health Commission on Thursday reported 11,285 new cases across mainland China, most asymptomatic and the vast majority in Shanghai, where 47 additional deaths were reported.

Shanghai city authorities said on Wednesday they would analyze the results of new rounds of tests to determine which neighborhoods can safely expand residents’ freedom of movement.

Shanghai is seeking to achieve “societal zero COVID”, whereby new cases are only discovered among people already under surveillance, such as in central quarantine, or among those considered close contacts. This would indicate that chains of transmission in the open community have been broken, reducing the risk of new clusters forming from previously undetected sources.

Trying to increase the vaccination rate of the elderly

While China’s overall vaccination rate is around 90%, only 62% of people over 60 have been vaccinated in Shanghai, the country’s largest and wealthiest city. Health workers have been visiting elderly residents at home to administer vaccines in a bid to boost that figure, the city’s Health Commission said Thursday.

The pandemic and strict containment measures have weighed on the economy, particularly in Shanghai, which is home to the world’s busiest port and China’s main stock market, as well as a large international business community.

A full month’s shutdown of the city will subtract 2% from China’s annual economic growth, according to an analysis by ING Bank earlier this month. The closures could also affect spring planting, pushing up food prices, while transport has also been hit hard.

Many flights canceled

Baiyun Airport in the southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou saw 80% of flights canceled on Thursday after ‘abnormal results’ were found during tests of airport staff, according to state media in The Paper line.

Travel, especially between provinces and cities, is expected to drop during the May Day holiday next week. China’s international borders have remained largely closed since the COVID-19 outbreak was first discovered in the central city of Wuhan.

Despite Beijing’s promises to reduce the human and economic cost of its strict “zero COVID” strategy, President Xi Jinping’s leaders have ruled out joining the United States and other governments in dropping restrictions and trying to live. with the virus.

According to Gavekal Dragonomics, a research firm, all but 13 of China’s 100 largest cities by economic output were under some form of restrictions earlier this month.