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Flights, weddings cancelled as China tackles Covid cases

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BEIJING: Beijing officials on Friday told residents to postpone weddings and keep funeral ceremonies short, as disease controls across China were tightened just months before the Winter Olympics kicks off in the capital.

The world’s most populous nation has reduced infection numbers to a trickle since its initial epidemic last spring thanks to a zero-tolerance approach of border closures, targeted lockdowns and long quarantine periods.

But China is now grappling with flare-ups in a dozen regions linked to tourists, spurring officials to order millions to stay home, restrict inter-provincial travel and ramp up testing.

Case numbers remain far lower than in most countries, with 48 new domestic infections on Friday bringing the tally to fewer than 250 in the past week.

About 6m people are under lockdown across the country

But authorities are not taking any chances, with tens of thousands of people in Beijing — which will host the Winter Olympics in February — under lockdown after a handful of cases were detected.

Residents should “postpone weddings, keep funerals brief, don’t organise banquets, and reduce unnecessary gatherings”, deputy chief of the city’s disease control centre Pang Xinghuo said at a Friday press conference.

Tourist spots will further limit capacity, while the newly opened Universal Studios resort will enter a “state of emergency epidemic prevention”, said Beijing’s deputy publicity chief Xu Hejian, without giving further details.

Queues stretched down the roads outside Beijing’s medical centres as people sought to comply with newly enhanced Covid controls.

Software developer Tu Anling, 24, said she needed a test before being allowed to board a train to Nanjing, a city 1,000 kilometres to the south.

“I initially arranged to meet friends here (in Beijing), but the recent outbreak made many suddenly say they’re not coming,” she said.

Many regions are demanding passengers show a negative test before entering, especially those from cities that have recently reported cases. Others said they needed tests to take academic or professional exams.

About 6m people are under lockdown across China including around 4m in the northwestern city of Lanzhou and the Inner Mongolian county of Ejin, where around 35,000 people live.

Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2021

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