BEIJING (AP), — Millions of Beijing residents are being tested for COVID-19, a virus that is threatening their health ahead of the Winter Olympics.
The third round of mass testing began Wednesday for 2 million Fengtai residents. There were many complaints online, and residents lined up outside to wait. Although the skies were clear, the daytime high was around freezing.
“I believe it is too common,” stated a woman who gave only her surname Ma. “I did it yesterday, and was asked to do it today.” The staff answered my question and said that they would test everyone who is eligible.
Health workers established multiple testing stations in the city. There were scattered reports that people were told that their testing would be delayed due to a system problem. It was not clear what caused the problem and whether the delay would cause significant delays.
To prevent cross-infection, athletes and other participants in the Games will be kept away from the public. On Tuesday, thirteen people arrived for the Games and tested positive. This brings the total number of those who have arrived at the Games to 106. Two positive cases were either athletes or team officials.
If they are positive, they will be admitted to the hospital if they show symptoms or to a quarantine facility if not.
Officials in Beijing announced Wednesday that eight people tested positive for the virus in the 24-hour period ending Thursday at 4 p.m., bringing to 69 the number of cases in the city’s current delta variant outbreak. 56 have symptoms, while 15 don’t.
Although the numbers are not as large as those of other countries (South Korea’s most recent daily count was 13,000), they remain a concern for the government, which is preparing to host the Winter Games in nine short days.
China’s capital has increased the country’s already stringent pandemic response measures. The city is currently conducting mass testing in its neighborhoods and buildings. This week, the local government announced that anyone who purchases fever, headache, or any other cold medicine will have to undergo a COVID-19 test within 72-hours.
One pharmacy required that anyone buying such medicines scan a QR code prior to making the purchase. The government sent a notice advising that all purchasers must register their name and phone number as well as their address.
Zhang Jianping, a mall salesperson, stated that while this is not an ideal solution, it was important to cooperate with the government’s new policies. “We need to protect ourselves against getting a cold, so that we don’t become burdens on the country.”
Since last weekend, all 2 million residents of Fengtai, the district where half the cases in Beijing were found, have been tested again. Residents are not permitted to leave their neighborhood or housing complex in certain areas of the district.
About 90 comments were left on Tuesday after the official announcement about testing was posted to social media. Most of them were critical. Some claimed that frequent testing is a waste of resources, disrupts daily work, and puts a burden on health care workers and community officials.
Mass testing is done in groups of 10 people. A container is held by one person. The health worker then takes samples from all 10 participants and places them in the same container. Each person is tested separately if they come back positive.
Tang Yupeng, a restaurant worker in Dongcheng, said that “I have gotten to it”. “I took my previous test two days ago and it caught me off guard. But this time, we were notified so it’s okay.”
China’s government is sticking to a zero COVID approach even though other countries have relaxed restrictions on movement. Any outbreak is dealt with by authorities using mass testing, lockdowns and travel restrictions. This policy has helped to keep the number of deaths and cases in China relatively low, but it is difficult for the government not to continue this strategy.