Parks in Beijing closed indefinitely as part of curbs to squash Omicron variant

·3-min read

Several parks have been closed in Beijing as the Chinese city of 22 million grapples with its worse Covid outbreak since 2020.

As authorities try to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant, several roads and compounds were sealed off and residents of the worst-hit areas were told to work from home.

The Covid-19 outbreak in the city has been steadily worsening over the past few weeks. Beijing reported 50 new local infections on Monday, bringing the total number of reported cases since 22 April to 777.

Health workers conducted more rounds of tests in a handful of districts, including Chaoyang and Fangshan, while several bus routes were suspended.

Beijing residents have been hoping to avoid the weeks of lockdowns that Shanghai has endured, but the decision to put a growing number of residential buildings under lockdown has left many anxious.

“I just rented an apartment in this compound, and I didn’t receive any notice,” a 28-year-old resident of Changping district in north Beijing said after she was barred from leaving her compound on Monday. "I’ve already been working from home but I’m worried I might run out of daily supplies.”

After residents received notice that positive cases have been detected in the area, a nanny living in the same compound said that lockdown meant she was not able to get to a new job.

“Today is the first day of the job and now I can’t go out,” said the 40-year-old.

Meanwhile, the Shanghai city authorities have reportedly launched a new push to end infections outside the quarantine zone by late May.

While there have been no formal announcements, residents in at least four of its 16 districts got notices saying they would not be able to leave their homes or receive deliveries as part of the efforts to bring down community infections to zero.

Grocers in these neighbourhoods would reportedly be shutting down their shops, raising frustration and backlash from the locals.

The anger was further inflamed after several online accounts claimed that authorities were forcing neighbours of Covid-positive residents into centralised quarantine and demanding that they hand over the keys to their homes for disinfection.

One video showed police breaking the lock after a resident refused to open a door. In another instance, according to the voice recording of a call, a woman can be heard arguing with officials who wanted to disinfect her home even though she claimed to have tested negative.

Legal experts have denounced the government’s move as unlawful.

"Shanghai should set a good example for the whole country on how to carry out Covid prevention work in a scientific and legitimate way,” said Professor Tong Zhiwei, who teaches law at the East China University of Political Science and Law.

Such measures should only be taken under a state of emergency, he said in an essay that was circulated widely on social media on Sunday.

Additional reporting by agencies

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