As the city tightens down on the virus ahead of the next Winter Olympics, repeated COVID-19 testing of millions of Beijing residents is beginning to stress some citizens’ tolerance.
The third round of mass testing for the district’s 2 million people began on Wednesday. Residents geared themselves against the wind as they stood in line under beautiful skies with temperatures hovering around freezing.
A late Tuesday social media announcement of the testing generated scores of angry comments, which were repeated by several Fengtai locals the next morning.
“I believe it is too frequent,” remarked a lady who only revealed her surname, Ma. “I did it yesterday and was requested to do it again today,” says the author. “Under the premise of testing everyone who should be tested, simply do it while you are here,” the staff answered when I posed the question.
In the last 24 hours, the Chinese capital recorded 14 additional local cases, increasing the total number of infections in the current delta variant epidemic to almost 50. The National Health Commission reported 24 additional non-imported cases across the country.
The numbers are tiny in comparison to other nations — the most recent daily figure in South Korea was over 13,000 — but they are a huge issue for the administration as it prepares to host the Winter Games in nine days.
The Chinese capital has tightened the country’s already stringent pandemic response protocols. The city is doing mass testing of neighborhoods and buildings, and the local administration said this week that anybody who purchases fever, headache, or other cold drugs would be required to undergo a COVID-19 test within 72 hours.
“This is inconvenient, but we must comply with whatever laws the government enacts,” Zhang Jianping, a mall salesman, said of the new cold medication mandate. “In order to avoid being a burden on the country, we should guard ourselves from having a cold.”
Since last weekend, all 2 million inhabitants in Beijing’s Fengtai area, where half of the cases have been discovered, have been tested for the third time. Residents are not permitted to leave their housing complexes or neighborhoods in some parts of the district, which has been sealed down.
On the government’s website announcing the testing, around 90 people left comments, the most of which were complaints. Frequent testing, according to others, wastes money, interrupts work and daily life, and puts a strain on health-care staff and community leaders.
Even while others have eased restrictions on migration, China’s government has maintained a zero-COVID policy. Lockdowns, mass testing, and travel restrictions are used by authorities to put an end to any outbreak, no matter how tiny. The program has kept the number of illnesses and deaths in China low, but also makes it difficult for the government to abandon it.