In the wake of an Omicron outbreak, Beijing has set out COVID testing for almost 20 million citizens in a majority of the city areas. Residents have responded with panic buying over concerns that their city will be locked down like Shanghai during last year’s pestilence crisis.
The capital city started testing all citizens of Chaoyang, a busy hub for business centers and foreign embassies, in the first of three rounds of testing in five days. Throughout the day, residents and office employees fell in long lines at improvised testing centers.
In a late-night news conference, city officials stated that almost 3.7 million tests had been conducted at 8 p.m., with over half a million coming back with negative results.
The officials have announced that mass testing would be extended on Tuesday, except for five remote places in the capital – 19.5 million out of the city’s 21.5 million citizens.
After 29 cases were confirmed in the 24 hours through 4 p.m., officials said all new infections were detected within districts already under epidemic control.
“The outbreak in Beijing is coming fast and furious,” said spokesperson Xu Hejian of the Beijing municipal government at a news conference, further stating that Beijing’s epidemic prevention and control attempts have “reached a critical moment.”
There have been 80 new confirmed infections since Friday, and authorities refuse to stay complacent despite low case rates so far remaining on flat lines, particularly after the Omicron variant’s spread rate in Shanghai caused tens of thousands of new cases.
Several residential compounds throughout eight districts are currently on lockdown, where residents are not allowed to leave their homes or community areas.
The officials encouraged citizens not to leave the city premises except for essential errands, citing an upcoming five-day holiday. Starting on Saturday this year, the Labor Day holiday has typically been a period of mass travel in China. However, it is possibly lesser this year.