Shanghai restricts travel as China's new Covid-19 cases double

A medical worker collects a swab from a resident at a makeshift nucleic acid testing site in Shanghai, China, on March 11, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (NYTIMES) - Shanghai ordered its residents over the weekend to avoid all but essential travel in or out of the city and halted long-haul bus services on Sunday (March 13), as a coronavirus outbreak continued to spread in the metropolis and across much of mainland China.

While China still has far fewer Covid-19 cases than most countries, the daily count of infections has accelerated rapidly. The country's National Health Commission reported nearly 3,400 new cases on Sunday, up from 1,524 on Saturday and 1,100 on Friday, and a couple of hundred per day just a week ago.

The most severe outbreaks are in towns and cities in the north-eastern province of Jilin, which accounted for two-thirds of the cases announced on Sunday. Two mayors were dismissed in the province on Saturday, in hard-hit Jilin City and in the Jiutai district of the city of Changchun.

Nearly half of the cases across China that were announced on Sunday involved people who did not initially show symptoms.

China has attributed this partly to a very high rate of vaccination, except among the elderly, and partly to the prevalence of the highly contagious Omicron variant, which sometimes produces many cases that are at least initially asymptomatic. A few cases of the Delta variant have also been detected near China's borders in recent weeks.

Shanghai reported 65 cases on Sunday, all but one of them asymptomatic. Beijing reported seven cases on Sunday, only one of which was asymptomatic. Throughout the pandemic, China has paid special attention to minimising cases in those two cities, which are centres of much of the country's economic and political activity.

Just before midnight on Saturday, Shanghai announced that anyone with an essential reason for leaving or entering the city would also have to show negative results from a nucleic acid test taken in the two preceding days. Shanghai had already closed its schools as of Saturday morning, switching to online learning.

Shanghai Disneyland announced that effective on Sunday, it was halting all theatre shows and requiring any visitors to show negative results from a nucleic acid test taken in the preceding 24 hours.

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