Coronavirus

China reports 24,473 new COVID-19 cases, some Beijing businesses shut

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China reported a slight decline in new COVID-19 cases on Saturday as numerous cities battled outbreaks, and as restaurants and other businesses in Beijing shut after authorities urged people to stay home over the weekend.

Authorities have recently sought to ease the impact of their tough zero-COVID policy, which is battering the world’s second-biggest economy and sowing frustration and anger as case numbers have risen to their highest since April.

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Numerous businesses in Beijing’s Chaoyang district, the capital’s main business and diplomatic area, have shut or announced only limited services.

One restaurant owner in the nightlife hub of Sanlitun told Reuters that authorities had told him and other outlets in the area to close for three days from Saturday.

A major office complex in the nearby Dongcheng district said Chaoyang residents should not come to work from Monday and staffing levels would be reduced by 30%.

The outlying Beijing districts of Fangshan and Huairou announced additional testing requirements for people entering from other provinces.

Beijing reported 79 symptomatic and 436 asymptomatic cases for Friday, down from 100 symptomatic and 366 asymptomatic cases the previous day, government data showed.

Beijing authorities are on high alert in the hope of preventing the numerous Omicron variant outbreaks in other cities from spreading to the capital.

Liu Xiaofeng, deputy director of Beijing’s municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told a news conference that case counts in each district of the capital continue to trend upward. By 3:00 p.m. (0700 GMT) on Saturday, the city had confirmed 395 confirmed cases, 56 of which were from people not in quarantine.

Nationwide, the authorities reported 24,263 daily domestically transmitted cases, of which 2,055 were symptomatic and 22,208 were asymptomatic, down from 25,129 the previous day.

That is approaching the highs when the authorities locked down Shanghai, China’s financial hub and most populous city, earlier in the year.

This time, however, the cases are distributed across many cities, where authorities are weighing the costs and benefits of loosening policies that have damaged businesses.

Guangzhou, a city in the south of nearly 19 million people, reported 269 new domestically transmitted symptomatic cases and 8,444 asymptomatic cases, compared with 255 symptomatic and 8,989 asymptomatic cases a day before, authorities said.

Guangzhou authorities recently announced they would build facilities with more than 250,000 hospital beds to cope with the rising cases. This week, residents staged a protest in defiance of strict lockdown policies.

The manufacturing hub of Zhengzhou reported 182 new symptomatic locally transmitted COVID infections and 1,385 asymptomatic cases, compared with 107 symptomatic and 1,556 asymptomatic cases a day before, according to government data.

Lockdowns in the city sent some workers fleeing from a factory operated by Apple iPhone manufacturer Foxconn. Authorities have responded by offering low-level officials and residents cash bonuses on top of wages if they stay on the production lines.

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