Shanghai kicks off new round of mass COVID testing

People line up for nucleic acid tests on a street, amid new lockdown measures in parts of the city to curb the coronavirus outbreak in Shanghai on Saturday.

SHANGHAI (Reuters) — China’s commercial hub of Shanghai began a round of mass COVID-19 testing for nearly all of its 25 million residents on Saturday as authorities seek to contain an outbreak tied to a popular beauty salon, while Beijing reported a spike in cases.

Authorities have ordered PCR testing for all residents in 15 of Shanghai’s 16 districts last weekend, with five districts barring residents from leaving their homes during the testing period.

The new tests come just 10 days after the city lifted a grueling two-month lockdown aimed at eliminating the community spread of COVID-19. On Saturday, Shanghai reported seven new local symptomatic cases for the previous day, of which six were detected outside of quarantined areas.

The city also recorded nine new local asymptomatic cases, up from six the previous day.

Underscoring the challenge of enforcing China’s zero-COVID policy, which authorities say is needed to protect the elderly and the medical system, the country’s capital on Saturday reported a spike in cases.

Beijing reported 36 new local symptomatic cases, up from seven a day earlier, and 25 new local asymptomatic cases, up from just one the previous day.

The capital on Thursday started to tighten some COVID curbs again, with at least two districts – including its most populous, Chaoyang — closing certain entertainment venues after a flare-up in a busy neighborhood known for its nightlife, shopping and streets of embassies.

The cases were linked to a drinking establishment known as Heaven Supermarket Bar. Infections have since surged, with Beijing saying on Saturday that all of the 61 new cases uncovered in the city on Friday had either visited the bar or had links to it.

So far a total of 69 cases linked to the bar have been reported, with the afflicted from 14 of Beijing’s 16 districts, throwing the city of 22 million back into a state of anxiety.

Beijing had relaxed less than two weeks ago widespread COVID curbs imposed to fight a major outbreak that began in April.

With the COVID resurgence, the sprawling Universal Beijing Resort late on Friday rescinded a plan to reopen, saying it would remain closed until further notice. Three of its workers had visited the bar, according to Beijing authorities.

In total, mainland China reported 210 new coronavirus cases for June 10, of which 79 were symptomatic and 131 were asymptomatic, the National Health Commission said on Saturday.

That was up from 151 new cases a day earlier – 45 symptomatic and 106 asymptomatic infections, which China counts separately.

There were no new deaths, leaving the nation’s fatalities at 5,226. As of Friday, mainland China had confirmed 224,659 cases with symptoms.