BEIJING — Shoppers returned to Beijing’s malls on Sunday as the Chinese capital eased pandemic restrictions after announcing effective control of a small but persistent COVID-19 outbreak.
The reopening of some stores and offices in Beijing has been welcomed by weary populace and struggling shopkeepers eager for life to return to normal. Combined with Shanghai’s gradual easing of restrictions, it signals that the worst of the double outbreak in major Chinese cities is over.
Lockdowns and other restrictions under China’s “zero-coronavirus” strategy are increasingly frustrating residents as they see other countries loosen and reopen borders. Some boycotted and staged protests in apartment complexes and college dorms, and in an authoritarian state, people would think twice about speaking out publicly because of the potential repercussions.
Restaurants in Beijing remain closed except for takeout and delivery, while many in Shanghai are still limited to special passes and going out for limited hours, even as the number of new cases plummets. In the event of an outbreak or a resurgence, officials tend to tread cautiously, as the system is prone to penalties for lax enforcement.
China recorded 293 new cases on Saturday, 78 of them from overseas. Shanghai has the most non-imported cases with 122 and Beijing with 21. Both cities have populations of over 20 million.
Beijing allowed parks, gyms and movie theaters to reopen on Sunday, all at 50% capacity. The Great Wall in rural Beijing, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) from the city center, reopened to tourists on Monday.
City spokesman Xu Hejian said Saturday that there are still sporadic cases in some areas, but they are within control. “This round of the epidemic has been effectively controlled,” he said.
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