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Beijing re-opens restaurants as cases drop

BEIJING (AP) – Diners returned to restaurants in most of Beijing for the first time in over a month yesterday as authorities further eased pandemic-related restrictions after largely eradicating a small COVID-19 outbreak in the capital under China’s strict “zero-COVID” approach.

Museums, cinemas and gyms were allowed to operate at up to 75 per cent of capacity and delivery drivers could once again bring packages to a customer’s door, rather than leave them to be picked up at the entrances to apartment compounds.

The return to near-normal applied everywhere in Beijing except for one district and part of another, where the outbreak lingered. Schools, which partially re-opened earlier, will fully do so on June 13, followed by kindergartens on June 20. Authorities conducted multiple rounds of mass testing and locked down buildings and complexes when infections were discovered to stamp out an outbreak that infected about 1,800 people over six weeks in a city of 22 million. The number of new cases dropped to six on Sunday.

In Shanghai, a population of 25 million people endured a citywide lockdown that kept most confined to their apartments or neighbourhoods for two months.

The city re-opened last week, but restaurants remain closed except for delivery and takeout.

One neighbourhood conducted more mass testing yesterday after finding new cases in a residential compound, which is now locked down for 14 days.

In both Beijing and Shanghai, anyone entering the subway or an office building, shopping mall or other public place must show a negative test result within the past 72 hours.

People lined up at testing stations that have been set up around the cities to meet the requirement.

Ferries in Shanghai, which is bisected by the Huangpu river, resumed normal operation yesterday. But organisers postponed the Shanghai International Film Festival, which was scheduled to be held this month, until next year.

Waitresses serve customers at a re-opened restaurant in a shopping mall as new COVID-19 cases drop in Beijing. PHOTO: AP
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