BEIJING — Shanghai ordered its residents over the weekend to avoid all but essential travel in or out of the city and halted long-haul bus services on Sunday, as a coronavirus outbreak continued to spread in the metropolis and across much of mainland China.
While China still has far fewer coronavirus cases than most countries, the daily count of infections has accelerated rapidly. The country’s National Health Commission reported 3,122 new cases on Sunday, up from 1,524 on Saturday and 1,100 on Friday, and a couple hundred per day just a week ago.
The most severe outbreaks are in towns and cities in the northeastern province of Jilin, which accounted for two-thirds of the cases announced on Sunday. Two mayors were dismissed in the province on Saturday, in hard-hit Jilin City and in the Jiutai district of the city of Changchun.
Nearly half of the cases across China that were announced on Sunday involved people who did not initially show symptoms. China has attributed this partly to a very high rate of vaccination, except among the elderly, and partly to the prevalence of the highly contagious Omicron variant, which sometimes produces many cases that are at least initially asymptomatic. A few cases of the Delta variant have also been detected near China’s borders in recent weeks.
Shanghai reported 65 cases on Sunday, all but one of them asymptomatic. Beijing reported seven cases on Sunday, only one of which was asymptomatic. Throughout the pandemic, China has paid special attention to minimizing cases in those two cities, which are centers of much of the country’s economic and political activity.
Just before midnight on Saturday, Shanghai announced that anyone with an essential reason for leaving or entering the city would also have to show negative results from a nucleic acid test taken in the two preceding days. Shanghai had already closed its schools as of Saturday morning, switching to online learning.
Shanghai Disneyland announced that effective Sunday, it was halting all theater shows and requiring any visitors to show negative results from a nucleic acid test taken in the preceding 24 hours.