Residents of Beijing are rushing to shops and supermarkets to stock up on food and other essentials, fearing a harsh lockdown like the one in place in Shanghai.
Chaoyang, the largest district of China’s capital that is home to 3.5 million people, began a mass testing drive on Monday after an uptick in Covid cases was reported.
District authorities announced 11 new infections between Saturday and Sunday afternoon. All residents of the district have been asked to stay at home, reported the state-run Global Times newspaper.
Public spaces, including restaurants, stadiums, cinemas and museums, will also be temporarily closed in the area.
The lockdown will be lifted if the district’s citizens test negative in two weekly tests scheduled for Monday and Wednesday.
The other districts, which are not under lockdown, will roll out three tests a week starting Monday.
Dr Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the Beijing Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, said the infection risk remained high and the number of cases is expected to rise in the following days.
Crowds were seen in shops and markets on Sunday night in anticipation of an extended lockdown like the one in place in Shanghai.
Home to about 26 million people, Shanghai became the epicentre of China’s largest Covid outbreak since the pandemic began in the country, recording 300,000 infections since March.
The city started locking down areas east of the Huangpu river on 28 March and extended the lockdown citywide on 1 April.
With an extended lockdown in the city, residents in Shanghai have struggled to get food and other groceries delivered to their homes.
“I’m preparing for the worst,” said a graduate student identified by his surname Zhang who had placed online orders for dozens of snacks and 10 pounds (4.5kg) of apples in the Haidian district of Beijing.
Shopkeepers in markets in Beijing said they had seen heavy crowds between 7.30pm to 9.30pm on Sunday, reported Global Times.
Supermarket chains in Beijing, including Carrefour and Wumart, said they had more than doubled inventories, while Meituan’s grocery-focused e-commerce platform increased stocks as well as staff, according to Beijing Daily.
Fresh Hema, one of the top retailers in China run by e-commerce giant Alibaba, said all 40 of its member stores in the city are well stocked and prices have remained stable.
The Beijing Municipal Commercial Affairs Bureau said on Sunday that there is sufficient supply of daily essentials.
Since Friday, Beijing has reported 47 locally transmitted Covid cases, with Chaoyang accounting for more than half of them.