(Bloomberg) — China imposed its fifth lockdown over about the past two weeks to stamp out a rise in Covid-19 cases. The nation is pushing to build more than 60 makeshift hospitals across its provinces.
A full temporary lockdown was put in place on Tangshan City, a steel hub in China’s northern Hebei province, according to local authorities. The restrictions started on March 22 with residents not allowed to leave their buildings until further notice. Shanghai’s government dismissed online rumors that it will impose a city-wide lockdown on the financial capital for one week while mandating further tests for residents in some areas on Wednesday and Thursday.
New Zealand will begin to phase out its remaining restrictions as an omicron outbreak shows signs of having peaked. From midnight Friday, outdoor gathering limits will be lifted and indoor limits raised to 200 from 100, and people won’t need to scan QR codes when they enter premises. Vaccine passes will no longer be required to enter hospitality and other venues from April 4.
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H.K. Mass Testing Feasible Once Cases Ease (12:07 p.m. HK)
Hong Kong still sees citywide mass testing as a feasible option to find remaining Covid cases once the current wave ebbs, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at briefing.
The resumption of quarantine-free travel with mainland China remains “a top priority,” but there’s no timetable for the reopening, Lam said. The city will resume discussions with the mainland on reopening once conditions permit.
Hong Kong will resume full-day, in-person classes if 90% of students and all school staff receives two doses of vaccination, Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung said at the briefing.
China Reports Increase in Infections (11:34 a.m. HK)
China’s worst Covid outbreak in more than two years continued to fester, with daily infections nearing 5,000 on Wednesday.
The northeastern province Jilin, which has been put under lockdown, reported some 2,800 cases. Infections in Shanghai rose to almost 1,000 after testing was expanded. Cases appear to be declining in Shenzhen, which ended a week-long lockdown earlier this week.
The flare-up, fueled by the highly infectious omicron variant, has been spotted in 28 out of 31 provinces on the Chinese mainland. The country has also seen a steady rise in severe Covid cases, though the overall number remains small, at 50 as of Wednesday.
H.K. Mulls Full Opening of Elementary Schools (7:53 a.m. HK)
Hong Kong government is looking into allowing elementary schools to resume full-day face-to-face classes, should vaccination rate hits certain threshold, Sing Tao Daily reports, citing an unidentified person.
Elementary schools have been limited to half-day face-to-face instructions for nearly 2 years. The Education Bureau plans to raise the vaccination threshold for resuming secondary school full-day face-to-face classes to 90% from 70% for both teachers and students.
China Builds More Than 60 Makeshift Hospitals (7:38 a.m. HK)
Each of China’s provinces should set up at least two to three makeshift hospitals to treat infections amid omicron’s explosive spread in the country, according to the country’s National Health Commission.
The nation updated its Covid treatment guidelines last week to reserve designated hospitals for those with severe conditions, while patients with mild symptoms should be sent to isolation facilities to avoid overwhelming the medical system.
A total of 33 makeshift hospitals have been built, or are currently under construction, to provide 35,000 beds, Jiao Yahui, an official with National Health Commission, said at a briefing. Some 31 local governments are required to come up with plans to ensure the hospitals can be put into use within two days when needed.
Hong Kong to Ramp Up Tracing as Cases Ease (7:33 a.m. HK)
Hong Kong is set to resume sending compulsory testing notices through a contact-tracing app, as a declining number of infections allows authorities to ramp up a key tool for tracking down and quarantining close contacts.
Health officials indicated in recent days that compulsory testing orders will be revived soon, since the city now has the testing capacity. Hong Kong suspended sending alerts via the LeaveHomeSafe app — mandatory for entrance to many restaurants and other public venues — since late February, as a surge in cases overwhelmed testing capacity.
Shanghai Dismisses Full Lockdown Rumors (7:17 a.m. HK)
Shanghai government denied online rumors that it will lock down the financial capital for one week, Chinese media cited local authorities as saying Tuesday night. The local authority urged residents not to hoard food and daily necessities.
The mega city of 25 million people has seen sharp increases in Covid cases over the past few days. It reported 896 Covid-19 cases Monday, a record for a second straight day. Authorities have expanded testing to more residents to root out silent transmission chains. The city last week ruled out imposing a broad lockdown, but officials said Monday that some areas will remain locked down for further testing. Li Qiang, the Communist Party secretary of Shanghai, urged increased testing in a visit to some neighborhoods under lockdown Tuesday.
The authority announced Tuesday evening it will halt some subway services at a few stations on a couple of lines starting today. Meanwhile, the State Council, China’s cabinet, has dispatched task forces to 10 provinces and municipalities including Shanghai to help oversee Covid control.
Thailand Faces Current Account Blowout on Oil, Tourism (7:17 a.m. HK)
Thailand is heading for a rare back-to-back current-account deficit as the outlook for tourist arrivals becomes less rosy with a flare-up in Covid cases globally and energy import bills ballooning amid soaring oil prices.
The net-oil importer may post a shortfall of $4.6 billion this year, according to Bank of Ayudhya Pcl, which previously estimated a surplus of $5.8 billion in the current account — the broadest measure of trade and investment.
Hillary Clinton Says She Tested Positive for Covid (7:12 a.m. HK)
Hillary Clinton tested positive for Covid-19 and has some mild cold symptoms but is feeling fine, she says in a tweet late Tuesday.
Hong Kong’s Quarantine Shift Fails to Satisfy Businesses (7:00 a.m. HK)
Hong Kong’s new policies to ease quarantine rules and roll back social-distancing measures fail to address major concerns of the local and international business communities and threaten its standing as a financial hub, according to commerce groups.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Monday said Hong Kong would end a ban on travel from nine countries, including the U.S., U.K. and Australia, on April 1 and halve required hotel quarantine to seven days. She also announced a path to lifting social-distancing measures, with the moves coming after financial institutions and the city’s residents expressed frustration at its isolation.
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