Makeshift Hospitals, Panic Buying Shows Return to Strict Covid Zero Regime in Beijing

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Beijingers are experiencing strict lockdown restrictions and witnessing panic buying as Covid-19 cases continue to rise in the Chinese capital. Beijing saw 1,854 new infections on Thursday, comparatively lesser than what the rest of world’s major capitals are witnessing, but authorities clamped down on movement of people and goods to stamp out the virus.

China reported 32,943 new Covid-19 cases on Friday compared to the 31,656 cases recorded a day earlier, reports Reuters.

The state-run Chinese media outlet Global Times said Beijing residents will now have to show a negative nucleic acid test certificate obtained within 48 hours in order to enter public venues in Beijing.

Global Times also said that makeshift hospitals are also now functional, indicating that the authorities are struggling to tackle the rising number of hospitalisations.

“Chaoyang is facing its toughest challenge in its COVID-19 fight, and the risk of the epidemic spreading at the community level still exists. The district will continue to strengthen preventive and control measures at the community level, further reduce the movement of people, and lower the companies’ attendance rate,” Chaoyang district’s deputy mayor Yang Beibei was quoted as saying by the Global Times news agency.

The effect of these lockdown measures on people and businesses are visible as supermarket delivery apps in Beijing are being overwhelmed by the large number of orders. Grocery outlets in Chaoyang are no longer taking orders and delivery apps like Freshippo, run by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Walmart’s Sam Club are running out of capacity to deliver on Thursday.

Officials in China now announce restrictions in a quieter way and post messages on WeChat groups and make announcements via neighbourhood committees to downplay the effects of lockdown measures.

This comes two weeks after China made changes to its Covid Zero approach. There is a 20-point virus playbook which advises against citywide lockdowns and mass testing exercises.

However, despite the new rules Chaoyang and Beijing sees stricter restrictions and people have been advised to not leave their homes unless necessary. Schools in Beijing have been shut down and students are being taught via online classes.

Separate reports by Bloomberg and other news agencies indicated that officials in Beijing believe that more makeshift hospitals may be required to tackle the large number of cases.

The city of 22 million has been successful in keeping the virus away for two years but the new rise in cases has created concern among the authorities.

As more virulent strains of Covid-19 emerge, authorities are struggling to strike a balance between Covid Zero and ‘dynamic zero’, since there are directions that say that the curbs should not be disruptive in nature.

Other Chinese cities, like Zhengzhou, which also houses iPhone’s largest assembly plant run by Foxconn witnessed violent scenes in its factory as workers broke down barriers and fought with guards to escape from the factory.

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