Mass COVID testing prompts panic buying in Beijing

STORY: In Beijing, residents have been clearing supermarket shelves as mass COVID-19 testing began in the Chinese city's biggest district on Monday (April 25), prompting fears of a Shanghai-style lockdown.

Uneasy shoppers crowded into stores and placed online orders trying to stock up on items such as fresh leafy vegetables, fresh meat, instant noodles and rolls of toilet paper.

"Seeing so many people buying food at the same time made me a little nervous, but actually, it's still ok."

But 26-year-old Mr He believes the angst around supplies is mainly among older generations.

"Personally I don't plan to go grocery shopping, and I think it's the same for young people and those in their thirties. Generally speaking, the elders at home have more time, and they have a stronger mindset of having to take care of their children and their families, so they are more pro-active. But for the others like us, we have treat this situation as per normal."

Supermarkets chains in Beijing including Carrefour and Wumart say they have more than doubled their inventories to account for the increased demand.

And Meituan's grocery-focussed e-commerce platform increased stocks and the number of staffers for sorting and delivering, according to the state-backed Beijing Daily.

Testing, which is currently taking place in the capital’s most populous district Chaoyang, comes after dozens of cases were reported in recent days.

70 locally transmitted cases have been found in eight of the capital’s 16 districts since Friday, a local health official said.

Residents and those who work in Chaoyang, home to 3.45 million people, have been ordered to test three times this week and reduce public activities, although most schools, stores and offices remained open.

More than a dozen buildings in Chaoyang have also been put under lockdown.

Despite everything, Mr He, who works in the service industry, is confident.

"There is definitely a certain degree of worry because it will affect jobs and the overall efficiency. But I don't think it will develop as it has in Shanghai. From my point of view, it can be controlled."

While the Chinese capital's caseload is small compared with those globally and the hundreds of thousands in Shanghai, the country is continuing to stick by its COVID elimination strategy.

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