As a precautionary move against the spread of the coronavirus, Beijing stopped roughly 10% of its massive subway system on Wednesday.
In a short statement, the subway administration stated that the decision to close 40 stations, largely in the downtown area, was made as part of epidemic control efforts. There was no timetable for resuming service.
Beijing has been on high alert in case COVID-19 spreads, with takeaway only restaurants and bars, gyms shuttered, and courses halted indefinitely. The Forbidden City and the Beijing Zoo, two of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, have shuttered their interior exhibition halls and are only running at half capacity.
A few villages have been quarantined once instances were found. People living in “restricted” regions, which include 12 high-risk locations and another 35 medium-risk areas, have been warned to stay within city limits.
Residents in the city must submit to three tests over the course of the week in order for authorities to find and isolate instances without enforcing broad lockdowns like those seen in Shanghai and elsewhere. To get access to most public locations, a negative test result received within the preceding 48 hours is necessary.
Only 51 new cases were reported in Beijing on Wednesday, five of which were asymptomatic.
With China’s Labor Day holiday this week and many commuters in the metropolis of 21 million already working from home, the subway closures should have little influence on city life.
On Wednesday, the streets of one high-risk downtown district were nearly vacant, save for a few delivery drivers on scooters and the occasional pedestrian and automobile.
Except for supermarkets and fruit and vegetable stores, all businesses were closed. Outsiders often avoid high-risk regions to avoid their presence being recorded by the tracking applications that are loaded on almost all mobile phones, perhaps causing issues with future entrance to public spaces.
While Beijing has taken a more relaxed stance, China has maintained its stringent “zero-COVID” policy, which restricts travel, tests whole towns, and establishes enormous facilities in an attempt to isolate every sick individual. Lockdowns begin with buildings and neighborhoods, but if the infection spreads extensively, they expand to the entire city.
This has wreaked the most havoc in Shanghai, where officials are gradually loosening restrictions that have kept most of the city’s 26 million residents confined to their residences, housing compounds, or immediate districts for over a month, and in some cases longer.
On Wednesday, Shanghai reported 4,982 new cases, all but 260 of which were asymptomatic, as well as 16 new fatalities. This follows a gradual fall in China’s largest metropolis, which peaked at 27,605 new cases per day on April 13 nearly three weeks ago.
The unusually low death toll in the midst of a pandemic that has killed over 400,000 people in the city that houses China’s major stock exchange and largest port has raised doubts about how such deaths are counted.
The tight and frequently criticized restrictions have resulted in food and medical aid shortages, as well as a larger — if presumably transitory — impact on the national economy. Desperate, enraged individuals have confronted officials at roadblocks and online, yelled from their windows, and banged pots and pans in protest.
Communist officials, who allow no opposition, have attempted to remove such demonstrations from the internet and blamed them on agitation by mysterious “foreign anti-China forces,” including the banging of kitchen tools.