BEIJING (AP) — Beijing is preparing new hospital facilities to handle a possible spike in COVID-19 cases, though the number of new cases remains low.
State media reported on Tuesday that a 1,000-bed hospital in Xiaotangshan in the northeastern suburbs, built for the 2003 SARS outbreak, had been renovated when needed.
On Saturday, city officials also announced they were setting up a 10,000-bed quarantine facility at China’s sprawling National Expo Center to house those who tested positive and their close contacts.
However, nothing more has been said of such plans and the reports have largely died out, a possible sign that officials are looking to avoid spreading further fears in an already on edge city.
New cases in Beijing remained stable, with 62 more reported on Tuesday, 11 of them showing no symptoms, up slightly from around 50 a day over the weekend. Beijing reported around 450 cases during the 2-week outbreak.
China has stuck to its strict “zero-COVID” approach that restricts travel, tests entire cities and sets up sprawling facilities to try to isolate each infected person. Lockdowns start with buildings and neighborhoods, but spread across the city if the virus spreads widely.
Beijing isolated a few communities, but avoided the sweeping citywide measures seen elsewhere.
It is a possible reflection of the desire to maintain an outward calm in the city that symbolizes more than anything the Communist Party’s unopposed rule over the vast country. The envy is especially critical in a year when President Xi Jinping is seeking a groundbreaking third five-year term as party leader despite worries about a return to one-man rule.
Xi has closely identified himself and the party with “zero-COVID,” making it politically impossible to abandon the approach, even as many other countries ease pandemic restrictions and experts question his utility, saying vaccines and new treatments for COVID-19 make it useless.
Beijing has ordered the closure of restaurants and gymnasiums for the May Day National Day which runs until Wednesday, while major tourist sites in the city, including the Forbidden City and the Beijing Zoo, will close their halls. indoor exhibition from Tuesday. Schools are closed indefinitely, even while senior students prepare for crucial exams.
Three more rounds of tests were ordered for most of the city’s 21 million people from Tuesday, following a similar requirement last week. A negative test result obtained within the previous 48 hours is required to enter most public areas.
Meanwhile, authorities in Shanghai are slowly starting to ease lockdown restrictions that have confined most of the city’s 26 million residents to their apartments, housing compounds or immediate neighborhoods for nearly a month, and in some cases longer.
Shanghai reported another 5,669 cases on Tuesday, all but 274 asymptomatic, along with 20 more deaths. China’s largest city, home to its main stock exchange and largest port, recorded a daily peak of 27,605 new cases nearly three weeks ago on April 13.
Shanghai’s surprisingly low death toll amid an outbreak of more than 400,000 cases has raised questions about how those deaths are counted.
The severe lockdown conditions have led to massive disruptions including food shortages and a wider, albeit likely temporary, impact on the national economy. Desperate and outraged citizens clashed with authorities at barricades and in line, shouting from their windows and banging pots and pans in frustration and anger.
In a development likely to reduce trust in public services, a video showing funeral directors returning a body bag containing a living person to a nursing home has circulated online.
A Shanghai district government confirmed the incident and said five officials were punished and a doctor’s license was revoked.
During Sunday’s incident, two funeral home workers in full protective gear pulled a yellow body bag out of a hearse. They then opened the bag and appeared to show a medical worker from Xinchangzheng Nursing Home that the person was still alive. He or she was then quickly sent back inside the house.
The incident sparked outrage on Chinese social media, with people questioning the reliability of the welfare system during the prolonged lockdown.
The Putuo district government, where the nursing home is located, said in a statement on Monday that the person in the video was receiving treatment at a hospital and had stable vital signs.
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