Residents line up for COVID mass testing near tents set up at a plaza in the Haidian district on Tuesday
Beijing reported 33 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, bringing the total number of infections found in the capital to 80 since Friday. The numbers are minuscule, but authorities – who follow a zero-COVID policy – are anxious to avoid the kind of spiralling outbreak that has plunged the commercial hub of Shanghai into a strict lockdown for weeks.
Residents in the southern city – which recorded 1,600 new cases and 52 deaths on Tuesday – have become increasingly frustrated with the authorities’ inability to meet their basic needs during the shutdown.
Videos on social media showed people leaning out of Shanghai windows to beat pots and pans in anger, or play “Do you hear the people sing?”, a protest anthem from the musical “Les Miserables”, on flutes and trumpets.
Authorities in Beijing are hoping to avoid such drama by acting swiftly.
The city began tests in its most populous district Chaoyang on Monday morning. By nighttime, authorities listed 10 other districts and one economic development zone for mandatory tests this week, covering a total of 20 million people of which 16 million were scheduled to be screened on Tuesday.
Al Jazeera’s Katrina Yu, reporting from Beijing, said the city’s residents are being required to undergo three rounds of testing.
“I think that’s recognition that this is the highly infectious Omicron strain and it’s very difficult to catch [on the test] at times,” she said.
“After those three rounds of test results are collated on the weekend, we are expecting authorities to make a judgement call on Sunday as to whether there will be any lockdown or any further restrictions imposed in Beijing. But already, people are extremely nervous.”
That anxiety has resulted in panic-buying in some areas, including in Chaoyang, with people lining up at supermarkets with full carts and bulging shopping bags, even as state media tried to reassure the public that there were plentiful supplies.