Beijing residents rush to stores as virus cases rise

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The specter of coronavirus lockdowns is creeping into view in China’s capital, forcing people to stock up on supplies, even as the 3.5 million residents of one district have been ordered to undergo regular testing.

The testing regime in the district of Chaoyang will require residents there to go through three rounds of testing at two-day intervals. The requirement comes as a few dozen cases have been located in Beijing.

There were also reports of general lockdowns in the city’s western districts, with residents told not to leave the delineated area. Restaurants and other entertainment venues have been shut there.

China has pursued a strict zero-COVID-19 policy since the early days of the pandemic, requiring strict lockdowns and isolation not only for those who test positive for the disease, but also for contacts of those infected and contacts of the contacts.

That system worked reasonably well until the highly infectious omicron variant struck China. Now lockdowns are becoming common across broad swathes of the country, testing the patience of those shut into isolation and raising worries about the economic impact.

Beijing has remained relatively free from the shutdowns, in comparison with other places like the metropolis of Shanghai. But now experts warn that the virus might have been creeping through the capital for a week and that more cases are likely to crop up now.

The question of any kind of lockdown for Beijing will depend on the scope of the virus’ spread there, one expert told the Global Times newspaper.

Another key question is, if it comes to a lockdown in Beijing, whether the city has learned from Shanghai, where tough controls are in place more than a month after their introduction, amid widespread complaints about lack of adequate food deliveries for all the people ordered not to leave their homes.

The city registered 51 deaths related to COVID-19 on Sunday, the highest one-day toll in this outbreak. That comes on top of 87 others already reported. Authorities reported 23,000 new infections nationwide, but said most of them were in Shanghai.


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