Beijing tightens COVID-19 restrictions as long holiday begins

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Beijing will amp up its COVID-19 restrictions with additional testing requirements, officials announced on Saturday, as the start of the Labor Day holiday was muted by creeping infections in the capital.

The five-day break is typically one of China’s busiest travel periods, but the country’s worst COVID-19 resurgence since early in the pandemic is likely to keep people home.

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Faced with the highly transmissible omicron variant, Chinese officials have doubled down on their zero-COVID policy, quashing virus clusters through mass testing and lockdowns.

Despite mounting economic costs and public frustration, Beijing announced it would further restrict access to public spaces after the holiday period.

Starting May 5, a negative COVID-19 test taken within the past week will be needed to enter “all kinds of public areas and to take public transport,” according to a notice on the city’s official WeChat page.

For activities such as sporting events and group travel, participants will also need to show a negative COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours, along with proof of “full vaccination,” according to the new rules.

China reported over 10,700 domestic COVID-19 cases on Saturday, including asymptomatic ones, with most in economic engine Shanghai.

The eastern metropolis, sealed off for around a month after becoming the epicenter of the latest outbreak, tallied more than 10,100 cases on Saturday, about half the daily load it recorded earlier in the month.

In Beijing, cases nudged up to 54, according to the National Health Commission.

The capital will make COVID-19 testing free for residents starting Tuesday, state media said.

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