Beijing Begins Unprecedented COVID-19 Testing as Cases Rise

Beijing started mass testing millions of its residents as part of an unprecedented scheme designed to identify and squash omicron’s stealthy spread before it spirals out of control in the Chinese capital.

Nearly 20 million people will undergo three rounds of COVID testing through the weekend as Beijing’s municipal government expands the effort that started in the eastern Chaoyang district, where most cases in the recent flareup have emerged. This will also include 10 additional administrative districts as well as an economic development area, home to the headquarters of Inc. (e-commerce) and other high-tech companies.

The scale of the program is unparalleled in Beijing, even as China has kept COVID in check since early 2020 thanks in large part to massive testing efforts that repeatedly spotted tiny incursions of the pathogen in the world’s most populous country. Authorities in Beijing are trying to prevent the spread of the infectious variant of the omicron virus to several cities.

This testing urgency highlights the need to determine how much and for how long omicron is spreading throughout the city. Also, devise a method of stopping it from spreading further. Monday’s city lockdown included parts of Chaoyang district. This area is home to many expatriates as well as most foreign embassies. Local leaders will be able to use the test results to determine how to identify the infected as well as those who have been exposed.

Continue reading: China’s Public Is Divided Over Its Zero-COVID Approach

The mass testing and Shanghai’s experience have caused jitters in Beijing about a potential wider lockdown, as such sweeping restrictions are now being implemented more frequently to control COVID outbreaks caused by the hyper-infectious omicron variants. China currently has more than 50 millions people under lockdown.

The 25 million residents of Shanghai’s financial district are among the most affected. They have been held indefinitely without food and water for almost a month and faced severe health problems and shortages. This lingering lockdown is leading to growing protests against harsh containment measures that form part of the so-called COVID zero strategy. Most of the world has abandoned this approach since they realized that the virus was an endemic.

While Shanghai is seeing a drop in daily infections, dropping to 16.980 Monday, from 27,000 on Monday, the number of deaths has risen. They reached nearly 200 as of Tuesday, mostly claiming the city’s elderly who have underlying ailments.

Davy Zhu with Jane Pong and James Mayger

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