China reports 24,473 new COVID cases; some companies in Beijing are closed

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China reported a slight drop in new COVID-19 cases on Saturday as numerous cities across the country suffered outbreaks and restaurants and many other businesses in Beijing closed after authorities urged people to to stay home for the weekend.

Authorities recently took some steps to soften the impact of their tough zero-COVID policy approach, which is plaguing the word’s second-largest economy, sowing frustration and anger, even as the number of cases has risen to its highest level since April .

Numerous companies in Beijing’s Chaoyang District, the capital’s main financial and diplomatic area, have closed their services or announced only limited services.

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A restaurant owner in the entertainment district of Sanlitun told Reuters authorities had told him and other shops in the area to close for three days from Saturday.

Beijing’s remote districts of Fangshan and Huairou announced additional testing requirements for people entering from other provinces.

Beijing reported 79 symptomatic and 436 asymptomatic cases for Friday compared to 100 symptomatic and 366 asymptomatic cases the day before, government data showed.

Beijing authorities are on high alert in hopes of preventing the numerous outbreaks of Omicron variants in other cities from spreading to the capital.

The most recent data for the country showed 24,263 new domestically transmitted cases, of which 2,055 were symptomatic and 22,208 asymptomatic, up from 25,129 the previous day.

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That daily tally is approaching the highs of when Shanghai’s financial center went into lockdown earlier this year.

This time, however, things are spread across numerous cities, where authorities are weighing the costs and benefits of easing policies that have hurt businesses.

Guangzhou, a southern city of nearly 19 million, reported 269 new domestically transmitted symptomatic cases and 8,444 asymptomatic cases, compared with 255 symptomatic and 8,989 asymptomatic cases a day earlier, authorities said.

Guangzhou authorities recently announced they will build facilities with more than 250,000 hospital beds to cope with rising cases. This week, residents staged a protest against the strict lockdown policy. [L1N32B062]

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The Zhengzhou manufacturing center reported 182 new symptomatic locally transmitted COVID infections and 1,385 asymptomatic cases, compared to 107 symptomatic and 1,556 asymptomatic cases a day before, according to government data.

Lockdowns in the city caused some workers to flee from a factory owned by Apple iPhone manufacturer Foxconn. Authorities have responded by offering low-ranking officials and residents cash bonuses on top of wages if they stay on the production lines.

(Reporting by Josh Horwitz in Shanghai; editing by William Mallard, Robert Birsel)

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