Tuesday April 26, 2022

COVID-19: Beijing expands mass testing as lockdown fears grow

COVID-19: Beijing expands mass testing as lockdown fears grow

Workers dress up in protective suits amid the coronavirus outbreak in Shanghai, China. Reuters

Beijing on Tuesday launched mass coronavirus testing for nearly all its 21 million residents, as fears grew that the Chinese capital may be placed under a strict lockdown like Shanghai.

Under its zero-Covid policy, China has used lockdowns, mass testing and severe travel restrictions to stamp out infections.

Its biggest city Shanghai has been almost entirely locked down for weeks, and a mass testing order in Beijing has sparked worries that the capital will be placed under the same restrictions.


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"Shanghai's situation has gone beyond everyone's imagination, and many people think it's absurd that a modern metropolis... has handled the situation like that," said Beijing resident Ms Zhao, as she did her regular shopping at a supermarket.

"I believe our situation will not be as bad... but to be honest, we also bought some rice, noodles, grains and oil. We've made preparations for at least one to two weeks," the 35-year-old human resources professional told AFP.

COVID-19: Beijing expands mass testing as lockdown fears grow
People wait in line to be tested for the Covid-19 at a swab collection site in Beijing. AFP

Beijing has ordered people in 12 central districts that account for most of its population to undergo three rounds of PCR testing after dozens of infections were found in recent days.

The capital's most populous downtown district, Chaoyang, was the first to order mass testing from Monday, with people waiting in long lines to be swabbed by health workers in protective gear.

Eleven more districts began testing on Tuesday.

The testing order for Chaoyang sparked panic buying from Sunday night, with residents lining up at supermarkets with full carts and bulging shopping bags as state media tried to reassure the public that there were plentiful supplies.

Beijing residents told AFP they feared a repeat of the sudden lockdown in Shanghai, where people have struggled to obtain food and medical care for non-Covid conditions.

COVID-19: Beijing expands mass testing as lockdown fears grow
Residents line up for nucleic acid tests during a lockdown in Shanghai, China. File/Reuters

Some residential compounds have been sealed off in Chaoyang, much like parts of Shanghai.

One resident of the district, who declined to be identified for fear of reprisal, told AFP that he felt "a little anxious" after fences were suddenly put up in his neighbourhood.

Residents in his building were ordered on Monday night to stay home for at least 14 days after one neighbour tested positive.

"I'm worried that if we need medicine or other items in the future, we won't be able to get them delivered," he said.

"We don't know how they will calculate the quarantine period, and no one has answered our questions."

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