Shanghai cuts some tourism trips on COVID-19 cases; Chinese cities adding quarantine rooms

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BEIJING/SHANGHAI, Jan 14 (Reuters) – China’s financial hub Shanghai cut some tourist trips on Friday as it rushed to head off local COVID-19 cases amid a rise in imported infections, while a few cities in central China are adding quarantine rooms to cope with new transmissions.

Shanghai’s tourism and culture authority said travel agencies and online tourism companies must once again halt organising group tours between Shanghai and other provinces, regions or municipalities, after the city reported five new domestically transmitted infections on Thursday, all linked to a previous arrival from overseas.

The order, in line with a national guideline to cut tourist activities in provincial divisions where new infections have emerged, came less than a month after Shanghai lifted a previous suspension that had come into effect in November, according to local government statements and a report by a newspaper managed by China’s tourism authority.

The risk of the virus entering from overseas has increased in Shanghai, with new imported cases during the first 10 days of this month already exceeding December’s total, according to Reuters calculations. It is unclear how many were caused by the Omicron variant.

When international travellers complete a 14-day quarantine and enter local communities for an extra week of “health monitoring”, they should avoid unnecessary trips from home, and must not take public transport, visit crowded indoor places such as restaurants and supermarkets, or even take a walk in their own residential compounds, a local official said during a news conference late on Thursday.

Cities across China, including Shanghai and Beijing, are becoming more vigilant for COVID-19 ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday travel season later this month, advising residents not to leave town unnecessarily during the holiday.

The southern city of Zhuhai suspended all flights to the capital Beijing from Friday, after one individual tested positive for the virus, state television said.

QUARANTINE

China reported a total of 143 local confirmed cases, and four domestically transmitted asymptomatic carriers for Jan. 13.

Most of those new cases were detected in the central province of Henan, where both the Omicron and Delta variants are spreading, and in the northern city of Tianjin, which is battling an Omicron outbreak.

Although the caseload remained tiny compared to many of the outbreaks outside China, the country is aiming to stamp out local clusters as quickly as possible, an approach that has forced local governments to rapidly isolate the infected as well as their close contacts.

Hundreds of thousands of people were quarantined in centralised facilities or at home in the worst-hit cities over the past week.

The city of Yuzhou in Henan started building another 6,000 makeshift quarantine rooms on Friday, after its mayor said the more than 1,000 rooms currently available were “still not enough”, according to state media reports.

Zhengzhou, Henan’s capital, is speeding up preparation for 5,000 quarantine rooms which it aims to make ready by April, a local official said earlier this week.

There were no new deaths for Thursday, leaving the death toll at 4,636.

As of Jan. 13, mainland China had 104,580 confirmed symptomatic cases, including both local ones and those arriving from overseas.

(Reporting by Roxanne Liu, Ella Cao and David Stanway; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Kim Coghill)

Photo – A man walks past sculpture in a park in Shanghai, China. EPA-EFE/ALEX PLAVEVSKI

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