Beijing residents are coping with abrupt local lockdowns and sweeping COVID-19 testing requirements as the Chinese capital seeks to prevent a coronavirus outbreak in advance of the Winter Olympics that opens in less than two weeks.
The lockdowns are part of China’s “zero tolerance” measures to fight the pandemic that have been ratcheted up before the Games. Those now include requiring tests for anyone who buys medications to treat cold, cough, fever and other maladies.
Such purchases are tracked via a smartphone app that requires customers to swipe their information when they buy health supplies or simply enter pharmacies. China strictly controls sales of medications and a doctor’s prescription is often required for ordinary cold medications or even vitamins.
A notice posted at a Beijing pharmacy on Tuesday said anyone who had bought any of four types of medication during the past two weeks was required to obtain a test within 72 hours. Failing to do so would affect their status health status as listed on their phones, “possibly affecting your going out and daily life”, the notice said.
A cluster of COVID-19 cases in Beijing has prompted authorities to test millions and impose new measures, even as the city of Xi’an in northcentral China lifted on Monday a monthlong lockdown that had isolated its 13 million residents.
At least six Beijing neighbourhoods have been targeted for lockdowns and officials in the capital said they would conduct a second round of mass testing of the Fengtai district’s two million residents, where the majority of the capital’s 40 coronavirus cases since January 15 have been found. Some trains and flights to Beijing have also been suspended to stop travel from areas with outbreaks.
The severe measures, despite a relatively low number of cases, illustrate the acute concern of government officials in the run-up to the Olympics’ opening in Beijing on February 4.
All participants in the Games will be tested on arrival and every day and be completely isolated from the general public.
More than 3,000 people have arrived for the Games since January 4, including more than 300 athletes and team officials, plus media and other participants, organisers said on Monday. So far, 78 people have tested positive, including one who was an athlete or team official.