Panic buying in Beijing stores amid COVID lockdown fears

BEIJING/SHANGHAI, April 25 (Reuters) – A massive order for COVID-19 tests in Beijing’s largest district has prompted residents of the Chinese capital to stock up on groceries, fearing they could be destined for to a lockdown similar to that of Shanghai, which entered a bitter fourth week of isolation.

Authorities in Chaoyang, home to 3.45 million people, on Sunday night ordered those who live and work there to be tested three times this week, as Beijing warned the virus had spread “stealthily”. for about a week before being detected.

Knowing how Shanghai residents were struggling to get hold of food and other necessities while locked indoors, shoppers in Beijing were hopping into stores and online platforms to shop. 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 8-10 days, he said – just in case his building was added to more than a dozen put under lockdown.

“Shanghai was a lesson,” he said, adding that he doesn’t think Beijing will suffer the same fate.

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In Beijing, supermarket chains including Carrefour and Wumart said they more than doubled their inventory, while grocery-focused e-commerce platform Meituan (3690.HK) increased inventory and the number workers for sorting and delivery, the state-backed Beijing Daily reported.

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A Gavekal Dragonomics study released on Friday estimated that of China’s top 100 cities by economic output, 57 had “relatively strict” COVID-19 restrictions in place last week, up from 66 the previous week.

Beijing’s workload is small compared to that of the world and the hundreds of thousands in Shanghai. Most schools, shops and offices in Chaoyang remained open.

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

In Shanghai, draconian restrictions were still largely enforced across the city, but officials offered hope for some respite, saying they would consider reserving the toughest restrictions for smaller areas around confirmed cases.

“Every enclosure, every gate, every gate must be strictly managed,” Qi Keping, vice director of Yangpu Commercial District in northeast Shanghai, told a daily press conference, describing the new approach. more targeted and claiming that it “could better achieve differentiated prevention”.

Over the weekend, authorities cordoned off the entrances to many public housing buildings and even entire streets with two-meter-tall green wire mesh fences, with videos online showing residents protesting from their balconies as they that frustration was reaching new heights among the city’s 25 million residents.

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

While authorities say they have eased some restrictions, most Shanghai residents are still confined to their homes or unable to leave their residential compounds. Even those who can get out have few places to go, with shops and most other places closed. Read more

Explaining the need for a new approach, Qi singled out the Tongji New Village area in his district, saying that although all of its 6,000 residents are in total lockdown, only a few residential buildings are reporting positive cases and the borders could be more focused on them.

Qi spoke alongside other city officials.

A woman from Shanghai’s Changning district, who declined to be named, said Qi’s comments gave her something to cling to.

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

The Shanghai government reported 51 new COVID deaths on April 24, the highest daily tally yet.

This brings the official death toll to 138, all reported from April 17, although many locals said relatives or friends had died after catching COVID-19 as early as March, casting doubt on statistics.

Local asymptomatic cases fell to 16,983 from 19,657 the previous day in Shanghai. Symptomatic infections rose to 2,472 from 1,401.

Cases outside quarantine zones fell to 217 from 280. Other cities that were locked down began easing restrictions once those cases hit zero.

There have been 70 locally transmitted cases in eight of Beijing’s 16 districts since Friday, with Chaoyang accounting for 46 of them.

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Reports from the Beijing and Shanghai offices; Written by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Simon Cameron-Moore and Jacqueline Wong

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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