China’s COVID-19 situation worsened over the weekend, with more places reporting outbreaks and imposing curbs even as cities that had been locked down or under restrictions started to open up.
Beihai, a seaside tourist city in southern China’s Guangxi province, has become the latest COVID-19 hotspot, with more than 560 cases in the week since the first infections there were detected.
The city locked down at least two districts including the popular Weizhou island, and is requiring residents in those areas stay at home, with multiple rounds of mass testing under way.
The restrictions have stranded over 2,000 tourists, with the school summer break getting under way across China Monday.
The outbreaks in Guangxi and northwestern Gansu province have driven infections nationwide to the highest in more than seven weeks, with almost 1,100 new cases reported over the weekend.
More than 20 provinces recorded locally-transmitted cases in the past week, the most since late May and more than double the level in late June.
Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, is extending its lockdown for most districts until July 24 as it continues to see a high level of cases.
Home to more than 4 million people, Lanzhou reported 152 infections for Sunday, while the province had 211 cases -- the highest in the country.
Of the 50 economically most important cities in China tracked by Bloomberg News, only Chengdu has new pandemic controls in place, with six districts there shutting entertainment venues and one restricting movement for six days from Sunday.
The capital of Sichuan province detected a case on Friday and that outbreak had grown to 19 as of Monday. Cases in Shanghai fell to 17 on Sunday, although the financial hub is planning a mass testing drive in nine of its 16 districts for three days from Tuesday.
Lockdowns in several other places including Xi’an, the city famed for its terracotta warriors, have eased.
Xi’an lifted what was described as “seven-days of control measures last week, and Wuxi, a commercial hub in China’s Jiangsu province in the east, resumed dine-in services from July 15.
Si county in Anhui province ended its lockdown on July 14, and has reported no new local cases for almost a week. Infections in Anhui are down from more than 200 a day two weeks ago.
The shifting hotspots underscore the challenge to China’s Covid Zero approach, as more infectious sub-strains such as omicron BA.5 repeatedly slip pass defenses such as ubiquitous PCR testing and mandatory traveler quarantine at the border.
Elsewhere, iron and steel hub Wugang in Henan province extended its lockdown until July 18. Authorities had not said if restrictions will be eased as of Monday morning.
After rising for more than a month, subway usage in 11 of China’s main subway systems started falling on Friday, compared with the same day a year ago.
After outbreaks earlier this year, the subways in Beijing and Shanghai haven’t recovered to 2021 levels, and recently ridership in Chongqing, Chengdu and other places has started to drop off.
In the middle of last week there were almost a million fewer rides taken each day on the Xi’an subway compared to the previous week. That number has started to rise again after the control measures were lifted.
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