New surge in Covid-19 cases in Beijing and Shanghai

A few days after the lockdown was lifted in Shanghai and measures relaxed in Beijing allowing for the reopening of restaurants, the number of Covid cases surged again in both cities, leading to mass testing and further restrictions. Beijing reported 166 infections in four days linked to the local bar Heaven Supermarket, located in Sanlitun, Chaoyang district. A total of 4,402 initial close contacts of the bar cluster have been identified and all their PCR tests were negative, but meanwhile cases had spread to 14 of Beijing's 16 districts. Residential communities within 200 meters of the bar were put under lockdown. Chaoyang district ordered all entertainment and fitness venues, and training institutions in basements, to suspend operations. All sporting events were also canceled and the resumption of classes in elementary and middle schools, scheduled on June 13, was postponed.The total number of cases linked to the bar has now increased to 228. China reported 143 new infections nationwide on June 13, with 51 in Beijing.

Shanghai added 10 community infections, increasing the total number of cases outside quarantined areas to 46 since lifting the citywide lockdown on June 1. Shanghai conducted mass nucleic acid testing over the weekend in an effort to curb a resurgence of Covid-19. Residents in most districts were confined to their homes until the tests in their neighborhoods were completed. Many Shanghai residents fear new lockdowns may be imposed and some started stocking up vegetables and daily necessities. The number of residential compounds classified as “medium risk zones” in Shanghai, where people must be confined to their homes for 14 days, rose to 28 on June 10. Shanghai health authorities also asked residents to refrain from visiting crowded areas.

Residents in the city of Erenhot in Inner Mongolia have been asked to stay at home after a new outbreak of Covid-19 with 41 symptomatic and 49 asymptomatic cases detected in three days. The city reported 409 infections in the past nine days and has been placed under strict lockdown. Authorities in Liaoning province are trying to track a string of asymptomatic cases. Since May 24, a total of 141 have been reported in the city of Dandong on the border with North Korea. The city has been under lockdown since late April.

There are signs that having a nucleic acid test will become a routine part of life for most people even after the coronavirus is largely brought under control in a city, as many cities are increasing the number of nucleic acid test sites and optimizing their locations to ensure that the closest test site is within a 15-minute walk. But mass testing should only cover regions at risk of the coronavirus spreading, so as to detect infections early and efficiently while minimizing the impact on people’s lives, He Qinghua, an official with the National Health Commission’s Bureau of Disease Prevention and Control, said. “Blindly expanding the range of testing should be avoided. In regions that have seen no recent infections and face no risk of imported cases, testing should not become a norm. It is unnecessary for people in low-risk areas and those staying at home for long periods to test frequently,” he added.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is simplifying the process for employees of U.S. firms and their family members entering China, the American Chamber of Commerce in China (AmCham China) confirmed. It will remove the requirement to obtain an invitation letter issued by the Foreign Affairs Office before applying for certain types of visas. So far only a handful of Chinese embassies around the world have posted relevant notices on their websites but the policy will soon be rolled out globally. While no longer requiring a PU letter, foreigners would only need a Notification Letter of Foreigner's Work Permit. Foreign nationals applying for business visas (M) will still need a PU letter. It is also expected that more U.S.-to-China flights will soon be approved.

Hong Kong has reported more than 800 Covid-19 cases for a second straight day, while the number of imported infections exceeded 100 for the first time since the start of the pandemic more than two years ago. “There has been a rise in cases recently, and we do not rule out the possibility of further increases in the daily caseload,” said Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, Director of the Communicable Disease Branch at the Center for Health Protection. “These cases are not concentrated in one particular area, there are cases across the city.”

This overview is based on reports by the China Daily, Shanghai Daily, Global Times and South China Morning Post.