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China: Beijing ramps up mass testing as Shanghai residents allowed outside

Beijing tightened COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday as it battled a fresh wave of the coronavirus. At the same time, residents of the country's most populous city, Shanghai, were allowed a small reprieve after weeks of a strict lockdown that came on the heels of the worst outbreak the country has seen since the start of the pandemic.

Beijing has logged about 300 locally transmitted cases since April 22. It has not yet locked down, but it has toughed social distancing rules and begun a new round of mass testing, particularly in the city's worst-hit districts.

Officials in the capital have also closed entertainment venues and banned indoor dining, adding another blow to some of the industries that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, particularly ahead of the May 1 International Labor Day holiday.

Shanghai residents breathe first fresh air in weeks

In Shanghai, a massive outbreak that has been ongoing since March has tested the government's strict "zero COVID" policy. The city recorded some 400 deaths from the disease, although there is some debate about how forthcoming officials have been about the actual death toll.

In response to the situation in Shanghai, the government put in place a weekslong lockdown that saw residents unable to leave their homes for any reason other than medical emergencies.

On Sunday, however, some Shanghai residents were allowed outside briefly for some light and air after two days of zero cases being reported outside the strictest quarantine zones.

Taiwan won't emulate 'cruel' Chinese lockdowns

Taiwan, for its part, has called the Chinese lockdowns "cruel" and said it would not follow suit despite a surge in infections.

Having controlled the pandemic with tough border controls and quarantines, Taiwan has been dealing with a wave of domestic infections since the start of this year, with some 75,000 cases driven by the omicron variant.

But with more than 99% of those infected having mild or no symptoms, a handful of deaths so far and high vaccination levels, the government has moved to ease restrictions as it seeks normalcy and to gradually reopen the island of 23 million people to the outside world.

Speaking during a visit to Taiwan's Centres for Disease Control, Premier Su Tseng-chang said their pandemic-containment measures had been "praised by the world."

"We will not lock down the country and cities as cruelly as China," he said, adding Taiwan's methods were "gradual".

"We have a plan, and there is a rhythm to it," he added.

Foreign arrivals to Taiwan will still be required to isolate for 10 days, a measure many East Asian countries have already ditched.

es/jcg (AP, AFP, Reuters)