Beijing is under threat of containment

Posted on Monday, April 25, 2022 at 1:51 pm

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

Beijing residents fear a Shanghai-style scenario, where nearly all of the 25 million residents have been confined since the beginning of April, often facing difficulties accessing food and non-Covid medical care.

The Ministry of Health was still reporting a total of 51 new deaths there on Monday – a record number in the Chinese economic capital.

China is facing an epidemic outbreak that, to varying degrees, is affecting almost the entire country. It is trying to beat it with its zero-covid strategy.

This consists in particular of in-situ confinement and massive testing to quickly identify and isolate infected persons.

In Beijing on Monday, long queues, sometimes hundreds of residents, wandered between sidewalks and shopping malls before arriving at screening tents, where officers in full suits took PCR tests.

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

“If they find the slightest positive case, the whole area could be affected,” said Yao Liming, a 25-year-old office worker preparing for testing.

– ‘We are afraid’ –

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

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

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

And specialized websites reported that about 40 percent of flights from the capital’s airports were canceled on Monday.

If the city council has not mentioned confinement yet, Beijing residents, wary of the example of Shanghai, are rushing to supermarkets and online platforms to boost their stocks of food products.

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

“We are afraid that things will become as they are in Shanghai (…) We took vegetables, rice and fruit,” she explains, noting that she had enough to eat for a week.

But the city of 22 million people has no shortage of fresh produce.

Eggs, meat, oil, fruits and vegetables are still available for purchase on Mondays on Internet platforms, as in traditional supermarkets, where queues form at the entrance.

Approximately thirty apartment complexes in Beijing, a small part of the population, are currently subject to some form of confinement.

– Vacations at risk –

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

It also ordered travel agencies to suspend group tours in Beijing, whose suburbs are famous for its mountains and water features.

However, life remains normal. Shops, restaurants and cinemas remain open.

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

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

Beijing, the seat of the communist power, has not been hit by a serious epidemic since the start of Covid and is of very special interest.

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

However, Beijing’s situation is incomparable with that of Shanghai, which is facing the worst outbreak of the epidemic since the beginning of the epidemic, as it has already recorded half a million positive cases since the first of March.

This harsh confinement, which no one knows how long it will last, is weighing on the morale of the population and on the economy.

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