Parts of Beijing go into COVID-19 lockdown, as Shanghai fences residents in and Hong Kong eases restrictions slightly

Domestic News

Pandemic restrictions are affecting all of China’s major metropolises: This is a roundup of the latest lockdown news.

A half empty freezer for fruits at a supermarket in Beijing, on April 25, 2022. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang.

Beijing reports new cases as parts of the city lock down

Beijing will mass-test most of its 21 million people, authorities announced on Monday, after the government reported 70 cases over the weekend with 26 of them found in the district of Chaoyang.

  • There were about 20,200 new cases nationwide, the National Health Commission said.
  • Chaoyang, which is home to roughly 3.5 million people and Beijing’s most populous district, will test its population three times this week after officials warned that the outbreak had been spreading undetected through the city.
  • The district’s authorities have tightened restrictions in some areas, including the Panjiayuan and Jinsong neighborhoods. Residents are barred from leaving their communities “unless necessary,” per an official notice (link in Chinese) released on Monday.
  • Nearly 3.7 million tests were carried out by 8 p.m. later that evening, with more than 520,000 results received, all of which were negative. Testing will be expanded to all the major areas of the city in all but five outlying districts.

People are queuing up outside supermarkets and shops despite government assurances that there are sufficient supplies, fearing a Shanghai-style lockdown that has choked up supply chains, left residents scrambling for food, and spurred outbreaks of criticism online and in person.

  • Supermarket shelves were emptied out of meat and vegetables and non-perishable foods on Sunday and Monday, while several online grocery delivery apps also sold out of food.
  • Major online grocery platforms like Meituan’s Maicai, Alibaba’s Freshippo, and JD’s 7Fresh have ramped up their product supplies in the city and extended their hours of operation.

Shanghai lockdown drags on

Shanghai recorded 16,983 new local cases with no symptoms, a dip down from 19,657 a day earlier as the city dragged into its fourth week under lockdown. As of April 24, 51 patients have died in the current outbreak.

Some residents have complained in group chats of falling ill from government food rations, with some suffering diarrhea and stomach pains following earlier reports of rotten food being handed out by local authorities.

A compilation of audio recordings called “The Voices of April” (四月之声) blew up on social media on April 22, before being quickly censored the next morning. The six-minute video (in Chinese, with English subtitles), created by an anonymous internet user named Cary, played back real conversations that took place over the month of April in Shanghai.

  • Chinese WeChat users spent the latter half of the evening reuploading the film from different accounts and in different forms, including flipping it upside-down and creating mirrored versions, in a mad race to evade and outpace censors.

The lockdown is bringing back memories of China’s “planned” past: Residents must now rely on the local government to distribute food and necessities, with some people comparing the situation with what happened before China transitioned toward a market economy in the 1980s.

  • “It’s gone from eating whatever comes to mind to requiring some planning ahead of time,” a Shanghai resident told Sixth Tone.
  • Inside the city, only vehicles with passes are allowed on the road, with some operators willing to pay $2,000 for a day pass on the black market.

Hong Kong eases back open

Hong Kong will allow international travelers back into the city, starting in May, for the first time since the pandemic started, an ease to the curbs that turned the once-vibrant financial hub into one of the world’s most isolated places.

  • Daily infections hit under 1,000 for more than a week, a sharp decline from a peak of more than 70,000 in early March.

“China’s Anthony Fauci” in pay-for-play scandal?

Meanwhile, renowned epidemiologist Zhōng Nánshān 钟南山, who is one of China’s top government health officials, is now facing allegations that he “repeatedly promoted COVID-19 remedies included in Beijing’s official treatment protocol for the disease without disclosing his links with the manufacturers.”


Previously:

Shanghai keeps COVID restrictions

Follow our coverage of the Shanghai lockdown.

Nadya Yeh