COVID-19 lockdown in the capital: Some Beijingers panic-buy as others remain phlegmatic

Domestic News

Life is not quite normal in China’s capital as fears of a lockdown rise alongside infection rates, but many people don’t fear the worst.

Illustration by Derek Zheng

In Beijing, after a handful of new COVID cases surfaced over the weekend, mass testing began in Chaoyang District on Monday, the city’s most populous district. All 3.5 million residents there are expected to get tested three times this week. Meanwhile, an area of about two square miles was placed under soft lockdown, with stores continuing to operate but entertainment venues ordered closed.

People rushed to stock up on essential supplies, with several supermarkets running out of food over the weekend. (Stores were quickly restocked, as CGTN host and full-time government cheerleader Liú Xīn 刘欣 helpfully tells us after deleting an earlier tweet in which she publicized her own grocery shopping.) Neighborhood WeChat groups are being created, while friends are texting one another with the latest information (and speculation).

At the same time, many believe Beijing will be fine. “Based on the previous response made by my community, if there’s any emergency, I think supply can be guaranteed,” one person told AP. “Plus there were lessons we learned from other cities. I think we can make good preparations.” A popular online commentator who goes by “One Person’s Shakespeare” (一个人的莎士比亚) released a video called “Beijing’s Fine” in which he outlined reasons that people didn’t have to worry. One commenter replied with full bitterness, “I’d like to invite you to Shanghai to experience what the days are like.”

My personal experience, living in Dongcheng, which borders Chaoyang, is that things remain relatively normal. This is not the first time mass testing has been ordered, and many of the people around me seem to trust that Beijing will avoid Shanghai’s fate, for reasons ranging from blind faith to heightened security apparatuses to the simple fact that Beijing is the political and spiritual center of the city so it can’t possibly be allowed to crumble…right? One can only hope that Beijing has indeed learned lessons from Shanghai, where most of the city’s residents remain in lockdown and authorities are struggling to put out literal fires.

For a summary of COVID-19 and lockdown news from around China, including Hong Kong, where pandemic restrictions are easing up, and allegations that “China’s Anthony Fauci,” epidemiologist Zhōng Nánshān 钟南山, promoted medicines without disclosing his links with the manufacturers, please click through to a roundup of today’s news.