Beijing Residents Brace for COVID-19 Lockdown
Unlike Shanghai, Beijing has yet to require that all its residents remain at home to contain the spread of COVID-19. Nevertheless, many people in its Chaoyang district and elsewhere are preparing for that possibility.
On Wednesday, city officials closed 60 subway stations, more than 10% of Beijing's vast system. They did not say when service would be resumed, according to ABC News.
Beijing, a city of 21 million people, has been on high alert for the spread of COVID-19, as restaurants and bars pivot to takeout, gyms close and schools suspend classes indefinitely, according to CNBC.
People who live in "controlled" areas, neighborhoods where cases have been discovered, have been told to stay in the city, and all residents must test for the virus three times throughout the week, according to ABC.
Chinese authorities reported 5,489 cases nationwide on Wednesday, of which 4,982 were in Shanghai, which has been under a draconian lockdown for weeks.
Beijing reported 46 symptomatic cases and five asymptomatic on Wednesday. The city's total since April 22, what it considers the start of its omicron outbreak, is 544.
Mr. Zhang, a Beijing resident, said he had bought extra food and water, even though he doesn't think Beijing will be locked down like Shanghai. He asked that VOA not use his full name because he was afraid of attracting official attention.
"I have six bags of rice, two bags of noodles, and several boxes of water, instant noodles and (nutritionally dense) biscuits, and I haven't stocked up too much," Zhang told VOA Mandarin in a phone interview last week. He said he bought his groceries online because the supermarket was crowded.
Ms. Yao, who lives in the Chaoyang district, told VOA Mandarin that she had been stocking up on necessities since the beginning of this year, after the Ministry of Commerce recommended that everyone do so. She asked that VOA Mandarin not use her full name because she wanted to avoid official retribution.
"I have always maintained a good habit of reserving food. So I have a lot of rice, noodles and oil at home," she said, adding that she figured her family would be fine even if Beijing locked down for a month.
And while Beijing has not yet closed the city, citizens' lives have been disrupted.
On April 28, the Beijing Chaoyang District Maternal and Child Health Care Hospital issued a notice that the outpatient and emergency departments of the hospital would suspend the admission of patients.
On the same day, Chaoyang Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in Beijing, announced on its official Weibo account that its emergency department would also suspend the admission of patients. Weibo is China's equivalent of Twitter.
Angry Chinese netizens left more than 800 messages under the official WeChat account "Beijing Headline."
"Why do you stop the emergency room as soon as there is a new COVID case, and how many people will be killed due to the secondary disaster caused by the COVID?" a netizen asked in a Weibo post.
Some Beijing residents said they were not worried about a Shanghai-like lockdown.
"Basically, I'm not afraid," said Mr. Wang, who asked VOA Mandarin to not use his full name so he could avoid attracting authorities' attention. "The party, government and military are here, and the people are here."
However, Wang told VOA Mandarin, in mid-October last year, after one person in his apartment building was diagnosed as positive, about 600 people from more than 200 families were forced into isolation at several hotels in the Changping district for 21 days.
Wang and his wife were not allowed to share a room at their hotel.
What particularly puzzled and annoyed Wang was that on the last day of the mandatory hotel quarantine, in addition to routine nasal and oral swabs during testing, authorities added anal swabs to the regimen.
Source: Voice of America