BEIJING: Millions of Beijing residents stayed home on Friday stepping out only for Covid-19 tests even as a top official in locked down Shanghai said the city aims to gradually ease traffic restrictions and open shops after reaching zero-Covid transmission at the community level in the next few days.
Beijing, a city of around 22 million, started three new rounds of mass nucleic acid testing in 12 districts from Friday as the city government attempts to stamp out an ongoing Omicron-led outbreak.
The Chinese capital has reported less than 1,000 Covid-19 cases since April 22 but authorities have imposed strict restrictions on movement and gatherings including suspension of public transport and ride-hailing services, and even putting communities with one case or even a contact of one under hard lockdowns.
Dining out continues to be indefinitely suspended.
On Friday, Beijing authorities said they were investigating a woman for allegedly fabricating “rumours” that the city will enter a three-day lockdown, after the claim prompted panic buying across the capital a day before.
Residents rushed to supermarkets on Thursday to stock up on groceries as rumours spread that stay-at-home orders would soon be announced Thursday evening.
Beijing police said in a statement on social media that they have launched an investigation into a woman surnamed Yao.
The 38-year-old “fabricated and published the relevant rumours”, the statement said, adding that police have taken “criminal compulsory measures” against her, which could mean detention, arrest or home surveillance.
A Beijing government spokesperson had clarified on Thursday that authorities were only calling on residents to “reduce personnel flows to cut off the transmission chain of the virus, assuring that the city’s routine operation and the supply of daily necessities will not be affected”.
Shanghai, meanwhile, could soon see some easing from the weeks-long lockdown that’s kept most of its 25 million residents indoors – a promise that’s been made before but not fulfilled because of fresh cases.
“Shanghai aims to reach the goal of reporting zero new Covid-19 cases at the community level by mid-May and social life including public traffic, shops and schools will resume gradually in an orderly manner,” Shanghai vice mayor Wu Qing was quoted as saying by state media.
The goal in Shanghai is to achieve “elimination in society”, meaning any new cases would only be in people in isolation, Wu said, adding that would allow an “orderly opening, limited (population) flow, and differentiated management”.
Shanghai has logged hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 cases and over 570 deaths during the ongoing outbreak thought the number new cases has fallen sharply in recent days
Meanwhile, China’s immigration authority on Friday said it is still providing services for its citizens to go abroad for necessary trips, dismissing rumours that new passports were not being issued and that residency cards for living in foreign countries were being invalidated.
Officials have promptly processed certificates for people who need to travel abroad for necessary and urgent matters such as study, scientific research, trade and businesses and medical issues, the National Immigration Administration (NIA) said in a statement on Friday.
Friday’s statement followed the NIA’s announcement on Thursday that it would “strictly limit” unnecessary overseas travels by Chinese citizens to minimise the risks of a resurgence in Covid-19 cases caused by infections among international travellers.