May 17, 2022

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The Chinese capital is in a race to discover cases of coronavirus and avoid the plight of Shanghai

The Chinese capital is in a race to discover cases of coronavirus and avoid the plight of Shanghai

  • Second round of COVID tests in Chaoyang District
  • Beijing has reported 46 new cases since 4 p.m. Tuesday
  • The nightmare of Shanghai shutting down for a month continues

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Millions of people in Beijing underwent a second COVID-19 test for the week on Wednesday as the Chinese capital tried to prevent the outbreak by the dozens from slipping into a closed-door crisis. Down the permanent city of Shanghai.

Evidence shows that Shanghai’s month-long isolation has become almost unbearable for many of the city’s 25 million residents almost daily on the country’s heavily censored internet.

A widely circulated video – since it was taken down – showed an alien trying to break through metal barriers on a Shanghai street, before being pulled back and dragged to the ground by four people in hazmat suits.

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“I want to die,” shouted the man repeatedly in Chinese and English. One of the people who stopped him replied: “You come to China, you need to respect the laws and regulations here.”

Another says “Calm down, calm down.” Reuters could not immediately verify the authenticity of the video.

Such dire scenes are watched with alarm in Beijing, where officials hope early mass testing will spare them the agony of Shanghai, where officials waited nearly a month as cases surge before ordering a citywide test.

In Beijing, supermarkets have kept supplies well stocked under orders from the authorities. Shi Wei, 53, a retiree, said he was encouraged by the low number of cases in the capital but remained nervous.

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“The past two days every time I went to the supermarket there were a lot of people, so I turn around and leave, because I feel a bit insecure,” he said. “I can understand the panic, given what happened in Shanghai.”

Ging, 31, who works in finance and only mentioned his surname, said he was worried about being in close contact with the COVID issue and being forced into quarantine with his entire family.

Beijing was testing more than 3.5 million residents of the Chaoyang District on Wednesday, all of whom were tested on Monday. On Tuesday, 16 million other regions were tested and another round is scheduled for Thursday.

In total, 20 million of the 22 million in Beijing will be tested three times this week.

Results from nearly all samples from the first round arrived on Wednesday afternoon, with 12 tubes of mixed samples testing positive, a Beijing health official said. A second official in Beijing said about 46 new cases had been identified since 4 p.m. Tuesday.

In mass testing in China, multiple samples are tested together in one tube for speed and efficiency.

The coronavirus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 and authorities have largely brought the outbreak under control through lockdowns and travel bans. But the rapidly spreading Omicron variant tested China’s “COVID-free” policy.

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A glimmer of hope has been shown in Shanghai, with officials confirming they will soon begin easing restrictions in areas that have eradicated infections, without giving a time frame or other details.

Meanwhile, most people are still confined to their homes. Even those who can go out have few options, with most stores and other places closed.

The data showed that six of Shanghai’s 16 provinces had no cases outside the quarantine areas, with numbers in seven other regions in single digits. In total, Shanghai detected 171 such cases on Tuesday, down from 217 on Monday.

Shanghai recorded 48 new deaths on Tuesday, down from 52 the day before, bringing the city’s official death toll since April 17 to 238.

China’s zero-tolerance policy has sparked rare public outcry in an important year for President Xi Jinping, over actions that seem increasingly strange to much of the outside world who has chosen to “live with COVID,” even as the infection spreads.

It is widely expected that Xi will seek a third term as president this year.

Research by Gavekal Dragonomics estimated that 57 of the 100 largest cities in China were under some form of COVID restrictions as of last week.

Quoting a meeting chaired by Xi, state television said the measures have hurt consumption, disrupted industry, and prompted official efforts to stimulate the world’s second-largest economy, including stepping up infrastructure investment. Read more

Hundreds of factories were allowed to resume operations, as state media gave extensive coverage to Tesla’s reopening (TSLA.O) Shanghai factory last week.

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But industry associations say most factories are struggling to get back to work with employees stuck at home, trucks parked in groups and component orders from contractors in the same position vacant. Read more

Many frustrated and homebound bankers, traders and investors say they are considering moving to other financial centers. Read more

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Reporting by the Beijing and Shanghai offices; Written by Marius Zacharia. Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Lincoln Fest, Robert Persell

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.