PCR tests, rays taken by storm: Beijing under the threat of containment

published on Monday, April 25, 2022 at 1:51 p.m.

Screenings in the street to identify positive cases, rush in supermarkets: Beijing lives on Monday under the threat of confinement after a rare epidemic outbreak in the Chinese capital.

Beijingers fear a scenario à la Shanghai, where almost all of the 25 million inhabitants have been confined since the beginning of April, often with difficulties in accessing food and non-Covid medical care.

A total of 51 new deaths were still announced there on Monday by the Ministry of Health – a record in the Chinese economic capital.

China is facing an epidemic outbreak that affects, to varying degrees, almost the entire country. She tries to overcome it with her zero Covid strategy.

This consists in particular of localized confinements and massive screenings to quickly identify infected people and isolate them.

In Beijing on Monday, long lines, sometimes hundreds of residents, snaked between sidewalks and shopping malls before arriving at screening tents, where officers in full suits were carrying out PCR tests.

These sites are located in the Chaoyang district, in the east of the capital. With a population of around 3.5 million, it is the most affected by this epidemic wave.

“If they find the slightest positive case, the whole area could be affected” and confined, told AFP Yao Leiming, a 25-year-old office worker who is about to be tested.

– “We are scared” –

The Health Ministry reported 19 new positive cases in Beijing on Monday.

A total of 70 people have been infected since the outbreak began, said Pang Xinghuo, a senior official with the city’s health department.

She explained that the area of ​​infection “has expanded” in recent days.

About 40% of flights from the capital’s airports were canceled on Monday, according to specialized sites.

If the town hall has not mentioned confinement so far, the Beijingers, made cautious by the example of Shanghai, rush to supermarkets and online platforms to strengthen their stocks of food products.

“People are apprehensive about the situation,” Ms. Wang, a 48-year-old resident, told AFP.

“We are afraid that things will become like in Shanghai (…) We took vegetables, rice and fruit”, she explains, saying she has enough food for a week.

The city of 22 million inhabitants, however, does not suffer from a shortage of fresh produce.

Eggs, meat, oil, fruit and vegetables are still available for purchase on Monday on online platforms, as in brick-and-mortar supermarkets, where queues are forming at the entrance, however.

Nearly thirty residential complexes in Beijing, i.e. a tiny part of the population, are currently undergoing a form of confinement.

– Holidays compromised –

A few days before the May 1 holiday, the town hall called on residents not to leave the capital and to avoid gatherings or group dinners.

She also ordered travel agencies to suspend group tours in Beijing, whose suburb is popular for its mountains and water features.

However, life remains normal. Shops, restaurants and cinemas are still open.

But the markets are worried: the Chinese stock markets in Shanghai (-5.13%), Shenzhen (-6.48%) and Hong Kong (-3.85%) plunged on Monday. European markets were also in the red during the session.

Oil prices have also fallen, a logical effect of demand which will inevitably be more limited if confinements increase in China.

Beijing, the seat of communist power, has not suffered a serious epidemic outbreak since the start of the Covid and is the subject of very special attention.

Any traveler coming from the provinces must present a negative PCR test dating back less than 48 hours.

However, Beijing’s situation is incomparable with that of Shanghai, which is facing its worst epidemic outbreak since the start of the epidemic, with already half a million positive cases since March 1.

This harsh confinement, which no one knows how long it will last, weighs heavily on the morale of the inhabitants and on the economy.

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