Covid-19: faced with the threat of containment, Beijing is betting on massive screening

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After the discovery of more than a hundred cases of Covid-19 since last week, testing has been extended to Beijing. Twelve of the sixteen districts of the city are concerned.

While the residents of Shanghai, China, have been confined for almost a month due to an outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic, Beijing is doing everything it can to avoid the same fate. The city has announced that it will extend its screening to a large part of the inhabitants, while gymnasiums and tourist sites have decided to close their doors.

China has been facing a sharp rise in the number of cases of Covid-19 since March, an epidemic which affects, to varying degrees, many provinces. It responds with a “zero Covid” strategy, accompanied by quarantine and massive screening.

In Shanghai, the hardest-hit city so far, authorities announced 52 new deaths on Tuesday and nearly 17,000 positive cases in 24 hours.

The 25 million inhabitants have been under severe confinement since the beginning of April. Some have difficulty accessing food and those who test positive are sent to quarantine centers with variable hygiene.

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More than a hundred cases since last week

The situation is infinitely less serious in Beijing. But more than 100 positive cases have been reported since last week, including 33 new ones announced on Tuesday – an increase from previous days.

In order to identify and isolate infected people as quickly as possible, the Beijing authorities are carrying out a screening campaign which extends from Tuesday to 12 of the 16 districts of the city of 22 million inhabitants.

As of Monday, residents and employees of the Chaoyang district, the city’s most populous and home to many multinationals, offices, embassies and shopping malls, had already been tested.

Several gymnasiums also announced on Tuesday that they would be closed until further notice “to comply with the requests of the health authorities”. The Lama Temple, a Buddhist site that attracts many visitors, will close from Wednesday.

Life remains largely normal in the Chinese capital, however. The streets are as busy as usual. Shops, restaurants, cinemas, offices and bars are open.

Supermarket rush

Even if the authorities have not mentioned the possibility of confinement, the example of Shanghai frightens many Beijingers who prefer to stockpile food to deal with this eventuality. They have flocked in recent days to supermarkets and online sales platforms to buy meat, fruits, vegetables, water, snacks, oil and other basic necessities. No food shortage has been observed for the moment and the authorities assure that the supply will be able to follow the demand.

Beijing City Hall spokesman Xu Hejian said on Monday evening that the spread of the virus was still “under control”.

The authorities have urged companies to resort to teleworking. They also confined around 30 residential buildings and asked travel agencies to suspend group excursions in the capital.

A few days before the holidays from 1er-May, the town hall also called on Beijingers not to leave the city unless absolutely necessary.

The measures taken by Beijing, however, are very moderate compared to those in other places facing similar outbreaks. The city of Baotou (north China), a major producer of rare earths, called on all of its inhabitants on Monday to stay at home, after the discovery of only two positive cases.

With AFP

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