in Beijing, a massive screening campaign and the fear of a new confinement for millions of inhabitants

China has been facing an epidemic outbreak of Covid-19 since March, which has affected many provinces to varying degrees. It responds to this with a zero Covid strategy, which consists in particular of large-scale confinements and quarantines, as in Shanghai where the 25 million inhabitants of the city have been confined since the beginning of April under strict conditions. Many complain of difficulties in accessing food and the sending of positive people to quarantine centers with variable hygiene.

Fifty-two new deaths and nearly 17,000 positive cases over twenty-four hours were still announced there on Tuesday by the Ministry of Health.

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Beijing, where around 100 positive cases have been reported since last week, is not there yet, but more than 100 positive cases have been reported since last week, including 33 new ones announced on Tuesday – an increase from compared to previous days. In order to identify and isolate infected people as quickly as possible, the Beijing authorities are carrying out a screening campaign which extends from Tuesday April 26 to twelve of the sixteen districts of the city of 22 million inhabitants.

As of Monday, residents and employees of the Chaoyang district, the city’s most populous and home to many multinationals, offices, embassies and shopping malls, had already been tested. Eleven new districts began screening their residents on Tuesday. In total, approximately twenty million inhabitants are affected by this campaign.

Several gymnasiums, where Beijingers practice basketball, badminton or table tennis, announced on Tuesday that they would be closed until further notice “to comply with the requests of the health authorities”. The Lama Temple, a Buddhist site that attracts many visitors, will close from Wednesday.

Life remains largely normal in the Chinese capital, however. The streets are as busy as usual. Shops, restaurants, cinemas, offices and bars are open.

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Supermarkets taken over

Queue outside a Covid test center on April 26, 2022 in Beijing.

Even if the authorities have not mentioned the possibility of confinement, the example of Shanghai frightens many Beijingers who prefer to stockpile food to deal with this eventuality. They have flocked to supermarkets and online shopping platforms in recent days to buy meat, fruits, vegetables, water, snacks, oil and other basic necessities.

No food shortage has been observed so far. No food shortage has been observed for the moment and the authorities assure that the supply will be able to follow the demand.

Beijing City Hall spokesman Xu Hejian said late Monday that the virus’ progression was still ” under control “.

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The authorities have urged companies to resort to teleworking. They also confined around 30 residential buildings and asked travel agencies to suspend group excursions in the capital. A few days before the May 1 holiday, the town hall also called on the Beijingers not to leave the city unless absolutely necessary.

The measures taken by Beijing, however, are very moderate compared to those in other places facing similar outbreaks. The city of Baotou (north China), a major producer of rare earths, called on all of its inhabitants on Monday to stay at home, after the discovery of only two positive cases.

Queue outside a Covid test center on April 26, 2022 in Beijing.

The World with AFP