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Beijing seeks to curb Covid’s “urgent and grim” outbreak as Shanghai quarantine continues

Beijing officials told a news briefing that they were monitoring cases in several districts and included students, tourist groups and interior design workers. The capital announced 22 new local cases on Saturday, national health authorities said on Sunday morning.

“The city has recently seen several outbreaks involving multiple transmission chains and the risk of continued and undetected transmission is high. The situation is urgent and gloomy,” city officials Tian Wei told reporters on Saturday. “The whole city must act immediately.”

The pressure to curb the epidemic in the capital comes as cases continue to rise in Shanghai, despite the failed weeks of locking that stopped the financial center. According to nationwide data released on Sunday morning, the city reported more than 20,000 new cases on Saturday.

Shanghai officials also announced 39 new deaths among Covid-19 patients on Sunday. This is a record value since city officials first reported deaths during the city’s ongoing epidemic on Monday, although questions have arisen as to whether these numbers are responsible for all fatalities.

In Beijing, authorities mobilized to limit the transmission, as more than 20 cases were detected in the capital between Friday midnight and 4pm on Saturday, officials said. One high school, where more cases were found, closed on Friday, with students and teachers in the district having to take several Covid-19 tests over the next week.

According to state media, several residential communities in the same neighborhood have also been placed under “control”, a term that usually means that residents are not allowed to leave the area while undergoing testing.

Officials also warned parents against traveling outside the city because of the risk of infection.

Screening would also increase in tourist groups following cases were found in a group of predominantly elderly tourists who were now quarantined, officials said. At least one village in the Beijing suburbs associated with the positive case was closed because mass tests were conducted.

The rush to curb the epidemic comes with growing fears in China that more stringent measures could be taken, as the country adheres to a strict “zero Covid” policy to eliminate the spread of the virus at every outbreak.

This policy has faced the toughest challenge since March 1, as the highly portable Omicron variant has triggered several simultaneous outbreaks. The number of cases in China has risen to unprecedented levels due to large outbreaks in the northeastern province of Jilin and Shanghai.

Lockdowns and forced quarantines in Shanghai have provoked anger and despair among citizens struggling for access to food and medical care. The city has previously said it was not going to impose a full city-wide lock, so many people were unprepared when officials quickly changed course late last month. Restrictions have spilled over into other areas, with dozens of cities introducing some form of blocking restrictions, according to this month’s numbers. According to national figures, new local cases were reported in 19 provinces on Saturday.