Panic buying in Beijing as the district launches mass testing of COVID
Panic buying in Beijing as the district launches mass testing of COVID

Panic buying in Beijing as the district launches mass testing of COVID

  • Beijing starts the first of three rounds of mass testing in a populous district
  • Mass tests give rise to concerns about food shortages and supplies
  • The Chinese stock market is falling due to fears that Beijing may join Shanghai in the lockdown

BEIJING, April 25 (Reuters) – Beijing residents bought food and other supplies as the city’s largest district began mass COVID-19 testing of all residents on Monday, leading to fears of a Shanghai-style shutdown after dozens of cases in the capital in recent days.

Authorities in Chaoyang, home to 3.45 million people, late Sunday ordered residents and those working there to be tested three times this week when Beijing warned that the virus had “spread” beautifully in the city in about a week before it was discovered.

“I’m preparing for the worst,” said a graduate student in the nearby Haidian district named Zhang, who placed online orders for dozens of snacks and 10 pounds of apples.

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Shoppers in the city crowded shops and online platforms to stock up on leafy vegetables, fresh meats, instant noodles and rolls of toilet paper.

In Shanghai, where most of its 25 million inhabitants have been barricaded inside for weeks, the biggest bottleneck in the food supply has been the lack of enough couriers to deliver to the homes, which has led to anger among residents. Read more

In Beijing, supermarket chains, including Carrefour (CARR.PA) and Wumart said they had more than doubled inventories while Meituans (3690.HK) merchant-focused e-commerce platform increased inventories and the number of employees for sorting and delivery, according to the state-sponsored Beijing Daily.

Supermarket chains should ensure goods are replenished on time, a Beijing official said at a press conference late in the day, adding that the city’s reserves of refined grain and oil could meet residents’ consumption needs for 30 days.

The stores’ opening hours will also be extended, the official said.

Since Friday, Beijing has reported 70 locally transmitted cases in eight of its 16 districts, with Chaoyang accounting for 46 of the total, a local health official said Monday.

Even in districts like Haidian, which have not yet reported any cases in the current outbreak, there is a sense of growing unrest over the food supply.

AREAS UNDER LOCKED

While the Chinese capital’s caseload is small compared to those globally and hundreds of thousands in Shanghai, the Chaoyang district asked residents to reduce public activities, although most schools, shops and offices remained open.

Chinese stocks fell on Monday with the blue-chip CSI300 index (.CSI300) closed 4.9% at a low level for two years, weighted by concerns, Beijing was on the verge of joining Shanghai in lockdowns. L2N2WN0GK Read more

Shanghai Composite Index (.SSEC) fell 5.1 per cent.

Beijing’s Chaoyang District is home to many wealthy residents, most foreign embassies, as well as entertainment venues and corporate headquarters. It has little production.

“The current outbreak in Beijing is creeping in from sources that remained unknown yet and is developing rapidly,” a municipal official said Sunday.

More than a dozen buildings in Chaoyang have been closed. For the rest of the district, people were to be tested Monday and again Wednesday and Friday.

Monday morning, people lined up at makeshift test sites manned by medical workers in protective suits. During mass testing campaigns in China, several samples are tested together.

“I came, as the announcement suggested, at 6 a.m., to test just to make sure I could get to work on time,” said a man in his 30s, standing in line for a test in his housing complex.

Early in the afternoon, traffic restrictions in part of Chaoyang were tightened, with residents being asked not to leave the area at all and not to leave their local connections for non-essential reasons, state television reported.

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Reporting by Ryan Woo, Roxanne Liu, Muyu Xu, Zhang Min and Albee Zhang; Edited by Tony Munroe, Himani Sarkar, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Alex Richardson

Our standards: Thomson Reuters trust principles.

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