The people of Beijing eagerly indulged in a privilege they hadn’t enjoyed for weeks: dining in a restaurant.
The Chinese capital relaxed pandemic rules at midnight on Monday, including a ban on eating in, after a partial lockdown that lasted more than a month. Although the shutdowns have not been as strict as in Shanghai, authorities in Beijing have suspended some public transport, forced some people into quarantine and imposed work from home across much of the city.
Yet even as schools and offices open in waves and public transport is restored, other measures have remained in place to prevent the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the virus. Everyone must wear a mask, have their temperature checked and take PCR tests for daily activities like riding the subway or going to work.
These measures underline the commitment of the Chinese authorities to completely eradicate the virus, despite the slowdown in economic growth and the anger of the citizens. The steps sparked limited and small protests. Still, some cities plan to conduct regular mass testing even in the absence of a local outbreak.
On Saturday, Liu Xiaofeng, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Center for Disease Prevention and Control, told a press conference that the city’s overall epidemic situation was improving. But he warned that “decisive action” was needed to avoid a resurgence in cases.
Authorities said there were six confirmed cases in Beijing on Sunday and 86 reported nationwide, up from more than 29,000 new daily infections at the height of this year’s outbreak in mid-April. The majority of cases during the peak occurred in Shanghai.
It’s unclear how long the relief could last, with cases resurfacing in Shanghai as it struggles to reopen after two months of severe lockdown. The city reported three local community infections on Sunday, prompting health officials to issue a warning to its 25 million residents.
“The risk of epidemic rebound still exists,” Wu Jinglei, Shanghai’s health commissioner, said at a press briefing on Sunday. “We can’t relax yet, but we have to be very vigilant.”