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China closes schools, dismisses mayors as COVID-19 numbers rise

A soldier stands guard beyond the limits of the Closed Loop system which authorities say is to counter COVID-19 during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics on Jan. 31, 2022. File Photo by Paul Hanna/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/dec8f297e653f742d7e8490761813d6d/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
A soldier stands guard beyond the limits of the Closed Loop system which authorities say is to counter COVID-19 during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics on Jan. 31, 2022. File Photo by Paul Hanna/UPI | License Photo

March 12 (UPI) -- Officials in China have dismissed the mayors of two cities and shut down schools in Shanghai as COVID-19 numbers rise in the country.

The mayors of Jilin City and the Jiutai district of the city of Changchun have been removed from their posts, The New York Times reported citing the state-run Xinhua news agency.

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The removal of the mayor of Jilin City came after the nine million residents of Changchun, the capital of Jilin Province, were ordered to stay at home while all non-essential businesses and stores are shuttered.

Schools will be closed and all transportation services will be suspended under the indefinite shutdown, the state-run Global Times reported. One person per household can leave every two days to buy supplies as the city undergoes a scheduled three rounds of mass testing.

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China has enforced zero-tolerance policies in combating the pandemic since COVID-19 first emerged in the city of Wuhan. Despite being the most populous country on Earth, China has maintained very low case numbers until a recent surge of the Omicron variant.

The National Health Commission in China said Saturday that 1,524 locally transmitted cases had been detected in 20 of the provinces across mainland China, a 39% increase from the 1,100 cases reported Friday.

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In Shanghai, where 480 cases have been reported so far in March, rumors that the city would impose a lockdown have grown despite rejections from the local government, the South China Morning Post reported.

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Kindergartens and preschools have closed and classes for primary and high schools have moved online. Many concerts and other indoor events have also been suspended, while Shanghai Disneyland said in a statement that its events and attractions would move forward with a reduced capacity.

Other cities in the country have also postponed events due to the rising numbers, more than two years since the onset of the pandemic.

Three new cases were also reported in Beijing, which is currently hosting the Winter Paralympics, the South China Morning Post reported. Several neighborhoods have since been placed under lockdown.

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