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Beijing is testing 20 million coronaviruses in a bid to avoid the misery of Shanghai’s lockdown

Beijing is testing 20 million coronaviruses in a bid to avoid the misery of Shanghai's lockdown
  • Beijing expands mass testing to almost an entire city
  • Residents flock to supermarkets to stock up on food and supplies
  • Frustration erupts in Shanghai after a month of lockdown

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (April 26) (Reuters) – Three-quarters of Beijing’s 22 million residents queued up for COVID-19 tests on Tuesday as authorities in the Chinese capital raced to stem an emerging outbreak and avoid the debilitating citywide shutdown that triggered it. . Shanghai shrouded for a month.

Having seen the commercial center of China struggle to meet the basic needs of its increasingly frustrated population of 25 million, people in Beijing have been hoarding food and supplies.

Videos on social media showed people leaning out of Shanghai windows banging pots and pans in anger, or playing a protest anthem from the Les Misérables musical to flutes and trumpets, “Can You Hear People Sing?”.

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Beijing hopes to avoid such drama by acting quickly.

Tests began in the most populous district of Chaoyang District on Monday morning. By nightfall, authorities have listed 10 more regions and one economic development zone for mandatory testing this week, covering a total of 20 million people, 16 million of whom are scheduled to be tested on Tuesday.

The orders come days after dozens of infections were discovered. Shanghai waited nearly a month and more than 1,000 cases before launching a citywide test in early April.

Liu Wentao, a cook in Beijing, said he was concerned about the new outbreak, but was confident the capital could handle it.

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“The controls against viruses are stronger than they are in other places, I don’t think it will be like Shanghai,” he said, on his way to get tested.

Beijing recorded 33 new COVID-19 cases on April 25, up from 19 the day before with no deaths reported so far during the outbreak. The total caseload is small compared to the hundreds of thousands in Shanghai.

Shanghai reported 52 new coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, up from 51 the day before. This brings the official death toll to 190, all reported from April 17 onwards, although many residents said their relatives or friends had died after contracting COVID in early March, casting doubt on the statistics.

In the capital, schools, shops and offices remain open, but the famous Lama Temple will be closed to tourists from Wednesday, while the National Theater in Beijing will be closed for the rest of the month.

Officials urged residents to refrain from leaving the capital and to avoid gatherings over the upcoming Labor Day holiday from April 30 to May 4.

Concerns about the economy reverberate among residents, businesses and financial markets, with Chinese stocks (.CSI300)And (.SSEC) It lingers near two-year lows.

“If we can’t go to work, there will be no income,” said Dewey, 31, who used to work in a small gym in Chaoyang District.

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The economic fallout from any shutdown in Beijing is likely to be less severe than in Shanghai, the powerful manufacturing hub, a key cog in national and global supply chains.

“In Beijing, I think it has less impact on companies because most of these jobs can be done from home,” Jörg Woetke, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, told Reuters.

“There’s less trucking, there’s less packaging, and there’s less production going on.”

Hwabao Trust economist Ni Wen estimated that the shutdown of the Beijing and Shanghai twins could cut one percentage point of China’s economic output in the second quarter.

That would add to geopolitical headwinds and the real estate market during an important year for President Xi Jinping, who is widely expected to seek a third term in office.

“The political ramifications of shutting down the Chinese capital will be profound,” said Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a US think-tank, referring to risks to international reputation and social stability.

In Shanghai, strict enforcement of measures continued, but plans for a citywide PCR test were somewhat derailed by initial forecasts of hail and thunderstorms, and the classification was later downgraded to cloudy conditions.

While authorities say they have eased some restrictions, most people remain either confined to their homes or cannot leave their apartment complexes. Even those who can go out have few options, with stores and most other places closed.

In areas where they were allowed to leave the house, residents were asked to perform rapid antigen tests themselves, rather than queuing up for a PCR test in the rain. In the rest of Shanghai, daily PCR tests remained mandatory.

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The prolonged shutdown has fueled frustration over lost wages, family break-up and quarantine conditions, as well as access to medical care and food, as residents struggle to get rid of rubbish and carry out basic errands.

The Shanghai government did not immediately comment on signs of growing discontent.

New asymptomatic or asymptomatic cases fell slightly to 15,319 and 1,661 respectively, while cases outside quarantine areas were steady at 217. Other cities that were under lockdown began easing restrictions once these cases reached zero. .

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Additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista, Ryan Wu, Brenda Goh, Martin Quinn Pollard, Elaine Zhang, Beijing and Shanghai offices; Written by Marius Zacharia. Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.