Shanghai authorities combed the city on Thursday for its last Covid-19 cases in the hope of clearing the way for an exit from a painful six-week lockdown, while Beijing curbed taxi services to keep a lid on its smaller outbreak.
The Chinese commercial hub of 25 million people has in recent days been tightening its lockdown for a final push to eradicate the virus by the end of the month, having made some significant progress, according to data this week.
Shanghai's mass testing detected just two new cases outside areas facing the strictest curbs on May 11, officials said on Thursday, but that was two more than none the previous day.
Significantly, the cases were found in two of the city's 16 districts, Xuhui and Fengxian, that authorities said this week were among eight that had achieved "zero Covid" status, having had no community cases for three consecutive days.
The latest cases show the difficulty in finishing off the highly transmissible Omicron variant despite ruthless enforcement of some of China's harshest restrictions since the virus emerged in the city of Wuhan in late 2019.
The new infections also raise concern about how long a return to normal life might last under China's uncompromising "zero Covid" policy after the lockdown is finally lifted.
Yu Linwei, vice-governor of Xuhui, told a news conference his district would not relax anti-epidemic efforts, making sure everyone is tested and that new cases and their close contacts are isolated in quarantine as quickly as possible.
"We dare not slack off," he said.
Some of the district's residents, who had in recent days been allowed to leave their compounds for walks and grocery shopping, say they have received notices telling them they can't leave home and to prepare for more testing.
Overall, Shanghai reported 1,305 new local asymptomatic coronavirus cases for May 11, up from 1,259 a day earlier and 144 symptomatic cases, down from 228. But these were in areas already under the tightest controls.
The cases found in the relatively freer communities are the ones most closely watched for clues as to where Shanghai's outbreak is heading. Other Chinese cities under similar lockdowns began easing curbs after a period of zero cases in such areas.
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