The Chinese capital began testing all residents of Chaoyang, a crowded area that houses the business hub and foreign embassies, on Monday morning, in the first of three testing rounds that will take place over five days. Residents and office workers formed long queues at temporary testing centers throughout the day.
As of 8 p.m., city officials said at a late-night news conference that nearly 3.7 million tests had been administered, and more than half a million negative results had been returned.
Officials also announced that mass testing will be expanded on Tuesday to all but five of the capital’s outlying areas, covering about 19.5 million of the city’s 21.5 million residents.
The announcement came after 29 cases were discovered in the 24 hours to 4 p.m. Monday, although officials said all of the new cases were detected in areas already under epidemic control.
“The outbreak in Beijing is coming fast and furious,” Xu Hejian, a spokesman for the Beijing municipal government, said at the press conference, adding that Beijing’s epidemic prevention and control efforts had “reached a critical moment.”
Since Friday, Beijing has reported a total of 80 cases. Although the number of cases is still relatively low, the authorities are not taking any chances, especially after seeing how fast Omicron in Shanghai has spread to tens of thousands of new cases.
Dozens of apartment complexes in eight districts are already under strict closures, with residents banned from leaving their homes or community land.
Officials urged residents not to leave the city unless absolutely necessary, including during an upcoming five-day holiday. The Labor Day holiday, which begins on Saturday this year, has been a traditional time for group travel in China. But it will likely be calmer this year.
Beijing has also suspended cultural performances, sporting events, exhibitions and other activities that include large gatherings, as well as all teaching classes and training sessions.
The announcement of mass testing in Chaoyang District late Sunday sparked panic buying overnight. Long queues formed in supermarkets, as customers empty shelves of fresh produce, while online delivery apps sold out some food.
Some supermarkets and department stores have extended their opening hours to keep up with the influx of customers. By the next morning, many had restocked them.
But many residents are still worried. The widespread food shortages caused by the weeks-long Shanghai shutdown caused an online uproar this month.
On Tuesday, Shanghai reported 16,980 infections, including 52 deaths linked to Covid, according to the National Health Commission.
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