Beijing returning to normalcy as epidemic wanes

People dine at a restaurant in Beijing on June 6, 2022, after the government eased some COVID-19 restrictions with most dine-in services resuming in the city. (JADE GAO / AFP)

BEIJING – On Monday morning, masked diners had their temperatures and nucleic acid test reports checked before entering a Sichuan cuisine restaurant in east Beijing. The diners sat at separate tables as they enjoyed their food.

It marked the first time that customers could enjoy a satisfying meal in a restaurant over the past 30-plus days after the capital had suspended indoor dining to contain the latest wave of COVID-19.

From Monday, restaurants in Beijing are able to welcome customers again if the latter have tested negative for the novel coronavirus in the previous three days, the city's government said.

Since the news was released, phones kept ringing in the Tuanjiehu branch of Meizhou Dongpo Restaurant in Beijing's Chaoyang District. "Many customers called to reserve tables," said Wu Xiuli, head of the branch.

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Although the restaurant is limited to half capacity, Wu feels confident that business will return to normal very soon.

New rules will take effect in all districts of the Chinese capital except Fengtai District and some areas in Changping District

No new local COVID-19 infections were reported in Beijing in the 15 hours ending at 3 pm on Monday, and no infections were registered at community level from Saturday to Monday afternoon, Pang Xinghuo, deputy head of the Beijing municipal disease prevention and control center, said at a press conference on Monday.

As the outbreak continues to subside, the city will further loosen epidemic response restrictions and steadily return to normal.

Starting from Monday, couriers will also be permitted to enter residential communities, and people who worked from home can return to the office. Public transportation including buses, subways and taxis will resume normal operations, local authorities said Sunday.

Besides the 12th graders who have already been back on campus since June 2, students of all other grades in primary, middle and high schools can attend in-person classes from June 13, while kindergarteners can resume offline classes from June 20.

Public places such as libraries, museums, cinemas and gyms are allowed to resume operations, providing they do not exceed 75 percent of the maximum capacity.

Those who enter public places, take public transportation, or attend gatherings should present a negative nucleic acid test report within 72 hours.

The new rules will take effect in all districts of the Chinese capital except Fengtai District and some areas in Changping District.

Around 10 am on Monday, over 40 staff members of a roast duck restaurant in Huaxi Live shopping plaza were in place, disinfecting the dining areas. 

A couple walk past cordoned off area as they prepare to take wedding pictures amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Beijing in June 6, 2022. (WANG ZHAO / AFP)

"Our store had closed for half a month due to the epidemic. We haven't seen each other during the period, and we really need to get together to work," said Ji Weidong, the restaurant's manager.

"The delivery lockers were put into use again in my residential compound. This morning, I also received a package at my doorstep. Everything seems to be back to normal," said a resident surnamed Tian from a community in Chaoyang. 

Previously, couriers were only allowed to leave packages outside the community compound gate.

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Since April 22 when locally transmitted cases of Omicron, a highly infectious strain, were reported in Beijing, the city has adhered to the dynamic zero-COVID policy, and adjusted its anti-virus measures in response to the changing circumstances.

Progress has been made in the current stage of the epidemic control work, and the situation is getting better, said Xu Hejian, a spokesperson for the Beijing municipal government.

However, there must be no slacking in virus control and prevention work, Xu added.

Beijing had reported more than 1,800 locally transmitted COVID-19 infections by Monday afternoon in the latest resurgence of the virus. It still had one area classified as high-risk for COVID-19 and six as medium-risk.