Some residents of the Chinese capital were seen emptying their shelves and rushing to order delivery apps on Friday, as the city government ordered the faster construction of field hospitals and COVID-19 quarantine centers.
Uncertainty and unconfirmed reports of lockdowns in, at most, some Beijing districts have fueled demand for food and other supplies that had not been seen in the city for months.
The northern suburbs of the city saw a large number of shoppers, leaving the shelves empty in the markets. However, there were few customers in the city center, which has a population of 21 million. Supplies were still plentiful.
There are 32,695 cases of COVID-19 reported daily across the country, breaking records on Friday. One hundred eighty-nine percent of them were found in Beijing. Most of them were asymptomatic.
Field hospitals and makeshift quarantine centers have been known to be set up in exhibition centers, gymnasiums, and other large indoor spaces. They are characterized by overcrowding, lack of food, and lack of hygiene and lights that last 24 hours.
Residents of the city have already been told to stay in their homes, many of which have been fenced off. Workers in white coats are stationed at the entrances to prevent unauthorized persons from entering. They also check that residents have a negative COVID-19 result on their mobile health apps.
Many college campuses were closed, and students with the lowest grades took classes online.
Some grocery delivery companies in Beijing have reached capacity.
Some customers were unable to order same-day delivery on Friday due to increased demand and labor shortages. This was because they were unable to reserve slots for Friday food and supply orders at popular online grocery stores like Alibaba’s Meituan Maasai and Freshippo.
Some Chinese users claimed that some delivery drivers were unable to work online because their homes were closed. These reports have not been verified.
Xu Hejian, the city government spokesman, said it was important to “improve management and guarantee” the quarantine centers and field hospitals where those who tested positive for COVID-19 are detained.
Xu said authorities should “further speed up its construction” and coordinate the allocation of space facilities, personnel, materials, and other resources.
Recent statements by officials have repeatedly insisted that China must uphold its strict “zero COVID” policy. This imposes mass testing, lockdowns, and quarantines for anyone suspected of being infected with the virus. This policy has been criticized for its negative impact on the economy and the disruption of life in many Chinese cities. The World Health Organization and other organizations have called for a change. However, the Communist Party resisted the calls.
Although the number of deaths and cases in China is much lower than that of the United States, it continues to bet on the strategy of eliminating all cases. Many other governments have relaxed virus controls and now rely on vaccines and immunity from previous infections to prevent serious illness and death.
In many other parts of China, stricter measures have been taken despite repeated calls by the government for more targeted and precise measures to reduce the economic burden and reduce social costs. Local authorities feel under immense pressure to stop the outbreaks and tend to favor the most extreme measures.
Guangzhou has banned access to Baiyun, which has a population of 3.7 million. Residents of Shijiazhuang (a city of 11 million southwest of Beijing) have also been told to stay home while mass testing was carried out.
The vulnerability of the virus to the public is a major concern. Few people have been exposed to COVID-19 and only a few have developed effective antibodies against the virus.