Beijing orders mass testing for virus-stricken residents

Beijing orders mass testing for virus-stricken residents

As a result of a strict lockdown, Beijing launched mass coronavirus testing for nearly all of its 21 million residents, as fears that the Chinese capital could be placed under a strict lock-down like Shanghai.

China is trying to contain a wave of infections in Shanghai's biggest city, which has been almost entirely locked down for weeks and reported 52 new Covid deaths on Tuesday.

After detecting dozens of cases in the city in recent days, Beijing has ordered people in 12 central districts that account for most of its population to undergo three rounds of PCR testing.

The capital's most populous 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.

The testing order for Chaoyang caused panic buying Sunday night, with residents lined 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 were worried about a repeat of the sudden lock-down in Shanghai, where people have struggled to get food and medical care for non-Covid conditions.

The city health official Xu Hejian said on Monday that the spread of the disease in Beijing was still within the scope of control. The capital reported 33 new cases on Tuesday, a fraction of Shanghai's daily tally of 16,000.

Beijing officials are anxious to avoid a spiralling outbreak.

They have urged companies to allow employees to work from home, sealed off multiple residential areas and suspended local group tourism ahead of the long May 1 national holiday.

On Monday, authorities urged Beijing residents not to leave the city for these holidays unless necessary.

In a note, the measures of Beijing are mild compared to actions taken elsewhere, according to Pinpoint Asset Management chief economist Zhiwei Zhang.

He wrote that he was surprised that the government did not impose restrictive policies in Beijing as harshly and quickly as in other cities that had experienced similar outbreaks in recent weeks.

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

The authorities are struggling with the impact of the protocols on the economy and business morale, especially when outbreaks occur in the country's most important cities.

Concerns have grown about the outbreaks in China and its government's anti-Covid policies, which could affect the global economy, particularly supply chains.

The city of Baotou, in the country's Inner Mongolia region, said on Monday that all residents must stay at home after the detection of two virus cases, with each household sending one member out to buy necessities once a day.

It came as the city's lockdown dragged on, with social media users and local news outlets sharing images of green metal fences put up around the city to keep residents confined to their buildings.

One viral image appeared to show fences along the deserted pavements of a once-bustling street where restaurant patrons used to dine al fresco.