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Shanghai, Beijing Order Tests 07/06 06:48

   

   BEIJING (AP) -- Residents of parts of Shanghai and Beijing have been ordered 
to undergo further rounds of COVID-19 testing following the discovery of new 
cases in the two cities, while tight restrictions remain in place in Hong Kong, 
Macao and other Chinese cities.

   Shanghai has only just emerged from a strict lockdown that confined most of 
its 24 million residents to their homes for weeks and the new requirements have 
stirred concerns of a return of such harsh measures.

   The latest outbreak in China's largest city, a key international business 
center, has been linked to a karaoke parlor that failed to enforce prevention 
measures among employees and customers, including the tracing of others they 
came into contact with, according to the city health commission. All such 
outlets have been ordered to temporarily suspend business, the city's 
department of culture and tourism said.

   Shanghai's lockdown prompted unusual protests both in person and online 
against the government's harsh enforcement, which left many residents 
struggling to access food and medical services and sent thousands to quarantine 
centers.

   Beijing has also seen a recent outbreak linked to a nightlife spot. It has 
been conducting regular testing for weeks and at least one residential compound 
in the suburb of Shunyi, which is home to many foreign residents, has been 
locked down with a steel fence installed over its entrance to prevent residents 
from leaving.

   Enforcement in China's capital has been far milder than in Shanghai, 
although officials continue to require regular testing and prevention measures.

   In the northern city of Xi'an, whose 13 million residents endured one of 
China's strictest lockdowns over the winter, restaurants have been restricted 
to takeout only and public entertainment spots closed for a week starting 
Wednesday.

   A notice on the city government's website said the measures were only 
temporary and intended to prevent the chance of a renewed outbreak. It said 
supermarkets, offices, public transport and other facilities are continuing to 
operate as normal, with routine screening including temperature checks and 
people being required to show an app proving they are free of infection.

   The gambling hub of Macao has meanwhile locked down the famed Grand Lisboa 
Hotel after cases were discovered there. More than a dozen residential and 
commercial centers in the Chinese special autonomous region of about 650,000 
people have been designated as "red zones," with access restricted almost 
exclusively to emergency workers.

   Authorities have ordered most establishments to close with the exception of 
casinos, which are Macao's main revenue generator and among the city's largest 
employers.

   City residents will have to undergo three citywide COVID-19 tests this week. 
The local outbreak is Macao's largest since the pandemic began, with more than 
900 infections reported since mid-June.

   Neighboring Hong Kong has also seen a rising trend of coronavirus infections 
since mid-June. In the past seven days, daily infections reported averaged 
about 2,000 a day.

   The city's new leader, John Lee, said Wednesday that Hong Kong must not "lie 
flat" when it comes to COVID-19, rejecting the "living with the coronavirus" 
mentality that most of the world has adopted.

   His comments echo the sentiments of Chinese authorities, who have stuck with 
their "zero-COVID" policy that has become closely identified with President and 
head of the ruling Communist Party Xi Jinping.

   However, Lee has said that Hong Kong authorities are exploring options, 
including shortening the duration of mandatory quarantine for incoming 
travelers. Currently, travelers must test negative for COVID-19 before flying 
and quarantine for seven days in designated hotels upon arrival.

   The city, once known as a bustling business hub and international financial 
center, has seen tourism and business travel crippled by its tough entry 
restrictions.

   The strict measures have remained in place despite relatively low numbers of 
cases and the serious negative effects on China's economy and global supply 
chains.

   The World Health Organization recently called the policy unsustainable, a 
view Chinese officials rejected outright even while they say they hope to 
minimize the impact.

   While China's borders remain largely closed, cutting off both visitors from 
abroad and outbound tourism, officials have cautiously increased flights from 
some foreign countries, most recently Russia.

   Mainland China reported 353 cases of domestic transmission on Wednesday, 241 
of them asymptomatic.

   Shanghai announced just 24 cases over the past 24 hours, and Beijing five. 
Anhui announced 222 cases in what appears to be the latest cluster, prompting 
the inland province to order mass testing and travel restrictions in Si county, 
where the bulk of cases have been reported.

 
 
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