Beijing residents on Sunday lined up in their millions for yet another round of coronavirus tests as authorities seek to curb an outbreak and avoid a prolonged lockdown of the type that has crippled Shanghai for the past month.
The Chinese capital has closed gyms and entertainment venues, banned dine-in services at restaurants and shut scores of bus routes and almost 15% of its sprawling subway system.
Beijing’s streets were less hectic than usual, with many not wanting to risk any activity that could classify them as close contacts of Covid-19 patients, forcing them into quarantine. Businesses that remained open were suffering.
A barber who asked to be identified only by his surname Song said his salon at a high-end shopping mall in Chaoyang district has seen far fewer clients since the outbreak.
“They’re afraid of getting abnormalities in their health apps,” Song said, referring to the mobile monitoring software all residents must use.
“North of us are malls and offices that have been sealed, and their apps might mark them as close contacts if they came.”
Caseload Lower Than Shanghai
Song said his salon will try to stay open for as long as possible, but he was not sure for how long. “This outbreak has truly unsettled everyone,” he said
Beijing’s daily Covid-19 cases are in two digits, much lower than Shanghai’s at this point in its own outbreak, when infections were in the triple digits and rising.
About 25 million people in the commercial hub of Shanghai, China’s most populous city, had been confined to their housing compounds for more than a month.
Many complain of not being able to get food or to access emergency healthcare or other basic services.
But Chinese authorities are unwavering in their commitment to stamp out the virus. Last week the authorities threatened action against critics of their zero-Covid policy.
Parts of Shanghai have seen their risk levels officially downgraded to the point where government rules would in theory allow them to leave their residences.
But while some were allowed out for brief walks or grocery trips, most were still stuck behind the locked gates of their compounds, causing widespread frustration and occasionally leading to rare altercations with hazmat-suited authorities.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell