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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Mass testing, panic buying in Beijing

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Fears of a hard COVID lockdown sparked panic buying in Beijing as long queues formed on Monday in a large central district for mass testing ordered by the Chinese authorities.

China was already trying to contain a wave of infections in its largest city Shanghai, which has been almost entirely locked down for weeks and reported 51 new COVID deaths on Monday.

Shanghai has struggled to provide fresh food to those confined at home, while patients have reported trouble accessing non-COVID medical care—and the rising cases in the capital triggered fears of a similar lockdown.

Downtown Beijing’s biggest district Chaoyang, home to around 3.5 million people, ordered mass testing from Monday for residents and those coming to work there – the area hosts the headquarters of many multinational firms and embassies.

Queues snaked around malls and outside office complexes on Monday as people waited to be swabbed for samples by health workers in protective gear.

“If a single case is found, this area could be affected,” said office worker Yao Leiming, 25, as he headed for a testing site in Chaoyang with a group of his colleagues.

The mass testing order, and warnings of a “grim” COVID situation in the city, sparked a run on Beijing’s supermarkets on Sunday as residents rushed to stockpile essentials.

People were seen pushing shopping carts stacked with food, while many items were sold out on grocery delivery apps when checked by AFP on Sunday—especially for deliveries to Chaoyang.

Beijing has also imposed tight controls on entry to the city, with travelers required to have a negative COVID test within 48 hours.

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