Panic buying in Beijing stores amid fears of COVID shutdown

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (April 25) (Reuters) – An order for mass COVID-19 testing in Beijing’s largest district has prompted residents in the Chinese capital to stockpile groceries, fearing a lockdown similar to that of Shanghai, which has entered its fourth week of bitter isolation.

Authorities in Chaoyang District, home to 3.45 million people, late Sunday ordered those who live and work there to be tested three times this week, as Beijing warned the virus had spread “steally” for nearly a week before it was detected.

Knowing how Shanghainese struggled to get food and other necessities while locked inside, shoppers in Beijing crowded stores and online platforms to stock up on vegetables, fresh meat, instant noodles and toilet paper.

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A 63-year-old Chaoyang resident surnamed Di bought two bags of vegetables — enough for eight to 10 days, he said — just in case he added his building to more than a dozen closed.

“Shanghai was a lesson,” he said, adding that he did not believe Beijing would suffer the same fate.

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In Beijing, supermarket chains, including Carrefour and Walmart, said they had more than doubled stocks, while supermarket chain Meituan said they had more than doubled stocks. (3690.HK) The state-backed Beijing Daily reported that the e-commerce platform focused on groceries increased stocks and the number of employees for sorting and delivery.

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Research by Gavekal Dragonomics published Friday estimated that of China’s 100 largest cities by economic output, 57 had “relatively strict” restrictions on COVID-19 last week, down from 66 the week before.

The caseload in Beijing is small compared to that globally and the hundreds of thousands in Shanghai. Most of Chaoyang’s schools, shops and offices remain open.

The area is home to many wealthy residents and most foreign embassies as well as entertainment venues and corporate headquarters. It has little manufacturing.

In Shanghai, the stricter restrictions are still widely enforced across the city, but officials raised hopes for some relief by saying they would consider locking up the toughest restrictions on smaller areas around confirmed cases.

Describing the new, more targeted approach, Chi Keping, vice president of Yangpu Business District, Northeast Shanghai, said at a daily press conference, “Every complex, every gate, and every door should be strictly managed,” and said it would “better achieve a ‘differentiated prevention’.” .

Over the weekend, authorities sealed off entrances to many public apartment complexes and even entire streets with two-meter-long green wire mesh fences, with videos online showing residents protesting from their balconies as frustration reached new heights among the city’s 25 million residents.

Police in hazmat suits patrol the streets, set up roadblocks and tell pedestrians to go home.

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Explaining the need for a new approach, Chi singled out the Tongji New Village area in her area, saying that although all of its 6,000 residents were under lockdown, only a few apartment buildings had reported positive cases and the restrictions could focus on those cases. .

Che spoke along with other city officials.

A woman in Shanghai’s Changning District, who asked not to be named, said Che’s comments gave her something to hold on to.

“Although I am still closed now, I am crying with joy,” she said via WeChat.

The Shanghai government reported 51 new deaths from COVID on April 24, the highest daily toll to date.

This brings the official death toll to 138, all of which were reported from April 17 onwards, although many residents said their relatives or friends had died after contracting COVID-19 as early as March, casting doubts over the statistics.

The number of asymptomatic cases in Shanghai fell to 16,983 from 19,657 the day before. Asymptomatic infections rose to 2,472 from 1,401.

Cases outside quarantine areas fell to 217 from 280. Other cities that were under lockdown began easing restrictions once those cases hit zero.

There have been 70 locally transmitted cases in eight of Beijing’s 16 regions since Friday, including Chaoyang, 46.

Reporting by the Beijing and Shanghai offices; Written by Marius Zacharia. Editing by Himani Sarkar, Simon Cameron Moore and Jacqueline Wong

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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