Beijing is preparing new hospital facilities to deal with an increase in COVID-19 cases, although 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 has been renovated if need be.
Unofficial reports online say thousands of beds have been prepared in a centralized quarantine center near the airport, but state media have not confirmed those preparations in what could be an attempt to avoid arousing public fear.
New cases in Beijing have remained stable, with a further 62 recorded on Monday, 11 of them showing no symptoms, just a slight increase from around 50 a day over the weekend. Beijing has reported about 450 cases in the two-week-old outbreak.
China has stuck to its strict ‘zero-COVID’ approach, restricting travel, mass-testing entire cities and setting up vast temporary facilities to try to isolate any infected person. Shutdowns start with buildings and neighborhoods, but become the entire city if the virus spreads.
This has happened as many other countries are relaxing pandemic restrictions. Experts have questioned the usefulness of China’s tough policies, saying vaccines and new treatments for COVID-19 make them redundant.
Beijing has ordered restaurants and gyms closed due to National Day May 1, which runs through Wednesday, while major tourist attractions in the city, including the Forbidden City and Beijing Zoo, will close their indoor exhibition halls from Tuesday.
Three more test rounds have been ordered for most of the city’s 21 million people as of Tuesday, following a similar claim last week. A negative test result obtained within the previous 48 hours is required to gain access to most public spaces.
Authorities in Shanghai are slowly beginning to ease shutdown restrictions that have restricted most of the city’s 26 million people to their apartments, residential complexes or immediate neighborhoods for close to a month. Shanghai recorded a further 5,669 cases on Monday, all but 274 of them asymptomatic, along with a further 20 deaths.
Shanghai’s surprisingly low death toll in the midst of an outbreak of more than 400,000 cases has questioned how such deaths are calculated. The severe shutdown conditions have led to massive disruptions from food shortages to a broader but likely temporary impact on the national economy.
China’s largest city recorded a daily high of 27,605 new cases nearly three weeks ago on April 13