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Beijing’s Covid outbreak drives grocery store run and fears of lockdown
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Panicked residents of Beijing stockpiled food and supplies, clearing grocery store shelves, as fears of a hard lockdown in the Chinese capital spread after authorities announced mass testing on Sunday to contain a small cluster of new coronavirus cases.

Beijing officials have reported 70 coronavirus cases since Friday in eight districts, most of them in the city’s largest district, Chaoyang. Chaoyang’s 3.4 million residents have been ordered to undergo three rounds of tests this week, return home directly after work and “reduce” social interactions.

Local news reports and videos showed road closures and apartment buildings sealed off with metal fencing as authorities imposed “targeted lockdowns” in neighborhoods that had positive cases. Long lines of residents waiting to be tested could be seen across Chaoyang District.

Worried that the restrictions and mass testing portend a sudden citywide lockdown similar to Shanghai’s, residents quickly began to panic buying goods for an extended quarantine.

The extreme measures taken in response to relatively few cases reflect the government’s unease with the more transmissible omicron variant, which broke through China’s strict border controls and quarantine measures and tested its previously praised handling of the pandemic. .

Beijing officials are under even more pressure to ensure the politically important city does not become a repeat of Shanghai’s lockdown, marred by food shortages, clashes with authorities and seething citizens venting their frustration online and offline.

Shanghai covid headquarters: food shortages, talking robots, hungry animals

Netizens posted pictures of empty grocery stores in Beijing as stocks of eggs, vegetables and meat ran out. Wumart supermarkets extended opening hours while food and grocery delivery platforms added delivery hours.

Online shopping platforms such as Meituan reported an increase in orders of up to 50% since Sunday, while the Beijing Commerce Bureau on Sunday called on platforms selling fresh produce to increase their inventory and staff of delivery.

Yang Beibei, deputy head of Chaoyang district, tried to assure citizens that supplies would not run out. “Our supplies and our reserves are quite sufficient. Please everyone, don’t worry,” she said.

Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention, called on residents not to travel for the upcoming Labor Day holiday on May 1 and to live a “simple life”, avoiding meals groups and gatherings.

“The situation is still serious,” she said. “Keep calm and don’t panic. Do not spread or believe rumors. Let’s work together to defeat the virus. »

Officials said more than 2,000 close contacts in Chaoyang had been identified and more than 14 areas were now placed under “closed management”, in which residents are barred from leaving their homes. Pang said on Sunday that the virus had been spreading “stealthily and rapidly” for a week. About a quarter of registered patients were 60 or older, and of those, only half had been vaccinated.

China’s National Health Commission on Monday reported 20,200 new cases across the country, as well as 51 new deaths in Shanghai.

Chinese authorities have stuck to the country’s “dynamic cleaning” policy in the face of coronaviruses in the face of growing public frustration with controls that prevent people from going to work or normally accessing the medical system. Politics, closely linked to the decision-making of China’s top leader Xi Jinping, has become a political necessity.

Cai Qi, the Communist Party secretary for Beijing, said on Saturday that the city must be “strictly on guard”. “All departments and units at all levels must take the most decisive measures” to block the chain of transmission.

Shanghai residents have posted advice online for their Beijing counterparts on how to survive an indefinite quarantine at home, including bartering with neighbours, apps to entertain kids at home and a list of take-out items if sent to a quarantine facility.

A netizen posted a photo of a loudspeaker, an ax and a pair of pliers – tools that allow residents to make themselves heard from their windows or cut through the fences installed in front of their houses – so that ” Beijing’s friends can take it into account”.

Another joke that made the rounds online on Monday said: “Shanghai was locked down, waiting for supplies. Beijing has stocked up and is awaiting a lockdown.

Lyric Li in Seoul and Pei-Lin Wu and Vic Chiang in Taipei contributed to this report.

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