'Entry only. No exit': Beijing closes more venues as authorities ramp up COVID-19 contact tracing
BEIJING: China's capital Beijing closed more businesses and residential compounds on Friday (Apr 29), with authorities ramping up contact tracing to contain a COVID-19 outbreak, while resentment at the month-long lockdown in Shanghai grew.
In the finance hub, fenced-in people have been protesting against the lockdown and difficulties in obtaining provisions by banging on pots and pans in the evenings, according to a Reuters witness and residents.
In Beijing, authorities were in a race against time to detect COVID cases and isolate those who have been around them.
A sign placed outside a residential complex read "Entry only. No exit."
Polish resident Joanna Szklarska, 51, was sent to a quarantine hotel as a close contact, but she refused to share the room, which had only one bed, with her neighbour.
She was sent back home, where authorities installed a front door alarm. Then she was called back to the hotel, where she now has her own room.
"Nothing makes sense here," the English-language consultant said by phone.
At a regular press conference on Friday, Chinese health officials did not respond to questions on whether Beijing will go under lockdown or what circumstances might prompt such measures.
The Chaoyang district, the first to undergo mass testing this week, started the last of three rounds of screening on Friday among its 3.5 million residents. Most other districts are due for their third round of tests on Saturday.
More apartment blocks were sealed, preventing residents from leaving, and certain spas, KTV lounges, gyms, cinemas and libraries and at least two shopping malls closed on Friday.
Chaoyang, which has the biggest share of cases in Beijing, declared more neighbourhoods to be at risk.
People who had recently visited venues in such areas have received text messages telling them to stay put until they get their test results.
"Hello citizens! You have recently visited the beef noodles & braised chicken shop in Guanghui Li community," one such text read. "Please report to your compound or hotel immediately, stay put and wait for the notification of nucleic acid testing."
"If you violate the above requirements and cause the epidemic to spread, you will bear legal responsibility."
Companies such as JD.com, an e-commerce platform, have been striving to keep residents well supplied.
The head of one of its logistics centres on the outskirts of Beijing, 32-year-old Ming Tang, said delivery volumes have increased by 65 per cent since the first cases emerged on Apr 22, and 80 per cent of the parcels are food-related.
"The effort of delivering parcels on time and long working hours put a lot of pressure on our couriers," he said.
Beijing reported 49 cases on Apr 28, versus 50 the previous day.