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COVID restrictions ease in Beijing as shopping centres partially reopen


Shoppers have returned to the malls of Beijing as the Chinese capital relaxes pandemic restrictions after declaring a small but persistent COVID-19 outbreak effectively under control.

A partial reopening of stores and offices in Beijing on Sunday was welcomed by a weary populace and struggling shopkeepers eager for life to return to normal.

Coupled with a gradual easing of restrictions in Shanghai, it signalled the worst was over in the twin outbreaks in China’s most prominent cities.

A worker wearing a face mask prepares to clean a fashion boutique inside a reopened shopping centre. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) (AP)

The lockdowns and other restrictions under China’s “zero-COVID” strategy have increasingly frustrated residents as they see other countries ease up and re-open their borders.

Some have resisted and staged protests at apartment complexes and university dormitories, in an authoritarian country where people think twice about speaking out publicly because of possible repercussions.

Restaurants remain closed in Beijing, except for takeout and delivery, and many people in Shanghai still can only go out with special passes and for a limited time period, even as the number of new cases has plummeted.

Residents wearing face masks walk through the reopening shopping mall decorated with colorful flowers after being closed due to COVID-19 restrictions in Beijing on Sunday. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) (AP)

Officials tend to err on the side of caution under a system that readily punishes them for lax enforcement if outbreaks flare up or come back.

China recorded 293 new cases on Saturday, of which 78 were among people who had arrived from overseas.

Shanghai had the most non-imported cases, with 122, and Beijing had 21. That’s in a population of more than 20 million people in both cities.

Beijing allowed public parks, gyms and cinemas to reopen on Sunday, all at 50 per cent of their capacity.

A portion of the Great Wall in a rural part of Beijing, about 60 kilometres from downtown, reopens to visitors on Monday.

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Xu Hejian, a city spokesperson, said Saturday that sporadic cases were still being found in some districts, but they were within a controllable range.

“This round of outbreak has been put under effective control,” he said.



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