Beijing has locked down parts of the city as it once again struggles to contain the Omicron COVID variant, with 74 new cases registered in the last 24-hour period.
In Sanlitun, a popular shopping and nightlife area in the Chinese capital, all bars have been shut and restaurants have moved to takeaway only, while 123 non-essential stores have also been closed.
Around the city, various residential neighbourhoods have been sealed off following the detection of cases, with those testing positive being taken away to quarantine centres.
Chaoyang district, Beijing’s biggest region and where Sanlitun is located, will continue to conduct daily mass testing of its 3.5 million residents until Wednesday at least.
The most recent outbreak came just days after the city relaxed its control measures, following a five-week lockdown from late April, where parks, schools, shopping centres and restaurants were closed, and large sections of the public transport were suspended.
The recent cases – which total more than 300 – are all connected to one superspreader event, where a man visited a dive bar called Heaven Supermarket over the weekend, along with several other nightclubs.
Authorities have warned that the outbreak in Beijing is “ferocious” but have not yet announced city-wide lockdown measures.
The struggle to contain the outbreak has once again put the focus on China’s continued pursuit of zero COVID.
Other countries that had followed similar policies, such as Australia and South Korea, have subsequently lifted most restrictions as they learn to live with the virus.
China describes such approaches as “lying flat” in the face of the virus and says that its healthcare system would be overwhelmed if it followed them, despite the availability of vaccines.
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Locals fear a never-ending cycle of lockdowns, even if authorities are apparently taking a more targeted approach.
Shanghai, home to 24 million people, went through two months of strict lockdown before restrictions were lifted two weeks ago.
However, some districts have been put into lockdown and there has been continued mass testing.
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