COVID Outbreak in Beijing Causes Buying Panic, Lockdown Fears

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COVID Outbreak in Beijing Causes Buying Panic, Lockdown Fears

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People lined up for the swab test to determine Covid-19. Photo by Noel Celis / AFP.

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BEIJING-Families in Beijing scramble to stock up on food.

Supermarkets remained open late.

Residents are enduringn long lines for mandatory examination.

A new coronavirus outbreak in the Chinese capital has raised concerns that Beijing could be, after Shanghai, the next mega city China to stop life to prevent the spread of variant of Omicron.

A medical worker wearing a protective suit takes samples from a resident, in Beijing.  REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

A medical worker wearing a protective suit takes samples from a resident, in Beijing. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

The central government relies heavily on lockdowns despite their high social and economic costs, in pursuit of the “zero COVID” strategy of the Communist Party leader, Xi Jinping, to eliminate infections.

On Monday morning, the National Health Commission said they found 47 cases of the coronavirus in Beijing since Friday.

Three-fifths are in Chaoyang district, which ordered all 3.5 million residents to take three PCR tests over the next five days.

People shop at a supermarket in Beijing on April 25, 2022. (Photo by WANG Zhao/AFP)

People shop at a supermarket in Beijing on April 25, 2022. (Photo by WANG Zhao/AFP)

Mass testing in response to early cases of coronavirus is sometimes a prelude in other cities with strict closures, such as four-week lockouts inside Shanghai which prompted widespread complaints by residents there.

The outbreak in Beijing, the seat of power of the Communist Party and a massive metropolis, added meaning for Xi, who ordered the country’s capital to remain virus-free.

A prolonged blockade there would increase political and economic pressure on his government.

“Chaoyang District is now the main focus for pandemic prevention,” Cai Qi, secretary of the Beijing Communist Party and a protégé of Xi, said in instructions quoted in the official Beijing Daily newspaper on Sunday.

Cai seems determined to show that in Beijing I will not hesitate in taking steps to suppress the infections, which has been criticized by some in Shanghai.

“Important measures against the pandemic cannot be left waiting until the next day,” Cai added.

“All sites at risk and the people involved in these cases should be checked on that day.”

The cases have been spreading in the community for a week, with multiple delivery rounds, Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing, said at a news conference on Sunday.

Chaoyang is the district more trendy of the city, with many luxurious shopping malls and very expensive apartments.

At Shin Kong Place, a shopping mall with brand-name stores such as Chanel, Saint Laurent and Versace, long lines at expensive supermarkets quickly formed as families struggled to make food storage.

At a PCR testing booth on the side of the street a block away, several dozen people were still lined up at 8 pm Sunday, when staff inside, wearing full-body white hazmat suits, announced they would be closing for the night.

The closure of the booth has caused outrage among people waiting in the dark for exams, whose results are usually delivered within 12 hours.

Many shouted at the staff, and many punched and kicked the booth and tried to open the door and argue with the staff.

Chaoyang did not ask residents to check in on Sunday night instead of Monday.

But without the new test results, residents they could not take a train or fly to another city before imposing a possible closure.

When Beijing had a small outbreak in the summer of 2020, people flocked to train stations to get out of the city before they got caught here.

Officials in Beijing expect to avoid the Shanghai experience, where a dismal lockout this month has brought hope to China’s economy and led to public anger.

Residents shared sad and critical stories about the closure through online correspondence, a rap song and a dark video.

“Shanghai residents feel there are many absurd, embarrassing and even cruel forced measures,” said Ji Xiaolong, a city resident, who publicly criticized the government’s handling of the lockdown.

“At the beginning of the lockup, 80% of the people approved it and the government policies,” Ji said in a phone interview, pointing out the difficulties in getting food and medical care.

“Now, I’ll estimate that less than 20% still supports the government blockade. “

Party leaders, however, seem determined to defend their “zero COVID” goal: virtually no infections in general in Chinese society.

On Monday, Shanghai health authorities said the city confirmed 19,455 cases the day before, a drop of 1,603 from the previous daily number.

The city allowed residents of some areas deemed safe to leave, but officials warned that wider restrictions should remain in place until infections are eliminated.

“Shanghai is at an important moment at offensive zero,” Sun Chunlan, the Chinese vice premier overseeing the blockade, said last week.

“The pandemic won’t wait for people, and you can’t think about standing up on your feet and breathing.”

Residents in Shanghai’s Udong district shared photos over the weekend before metal fences and barriers cages that climb into apartment exits, part of the district’s push to implement “tough” insulation for enclosed buildings.

A high point of public opposition against city policies is “sound of april”, a six-minute video that, against the melancholy music and black-and-white aerial footage of Shanghai, features the voices of residents asking for help from officials.

The video spread quickly and widely on Chinese social media last week before it was removed by censors.

It starts with what Shanghai officials said last month It is not necessary a lockdown and then it only lasts a few days.

Then came a montage of voices: a trucker carrying food for the destroyed city, saying his cargo was in danger of rotting because no one came to receive it; a son who said his elderly and ill father had been denied hospital care; a resident forced to quarantine in an unfinished hospital; a local official asking for understanding from a man that pleas for medical care had not been answered.

The video quickly spread to Shanghai residents, reflecting on widespread contempt through official media reports about the crisis, Ji said.

“This video released the fig leaf of these forces,” he said.

“At this point of the crisis, the people of Shanghai began to come together.”

Some critics of Shanghai’s response were members of high -ranking academic establishments who generally kept their views quiet.

In a government presentation reported to Chinese media, Tang Xiaotian, a professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, warned that officials should refrain possibly illegal to imprison people.

Residents were outraged at measures such as barriers around apartments which could make it difficult to escape in case there is a fire, he said.

The official propaganda about the closure in Shanghai has “damaged the government’s credibility,” Liu Xiaobing, a professor at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics and a member of China’s national legislature, wrote in an essay also shared on social media. Chinese media. which was later removed.

He did not respond to an email seeking comment.

“Policy enforcers only care about the problems they can cause if they relax the controls,” Liu wrote.

“They never worry about calling for liability for damage caused by unlimited restrictions.”

Li You contributed research.

c.2022 The New York Times Company

Source: Clarin

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