BEIJING (CHINA) – With China battling the worst outbreak of COVID since March, Beijing launched mass testing in some areas on Friday and Shanghai was testing all hospital staff. The move comes as families began to worry over Lunar New Year reunion plans amid new curbs.
Long queues formed in some districts in Beijing, where mass testing was launched following several consecutive days of new cases. A queue more than 200 metres long built up outside Dengshikou Elementary School, a testing spot near the city centre.
Mainland China reported 103 cases on Friday, a slight decline from a day earlier which saw144 infections.
Of the new cases, 94 were local transmissions, Heilongjiang province in the northeast reported 47 new cases, while Shanghai reported six new cases and the capital, Beijing, reported three new cases.
City officials said there were some “leaks” in epidemic control in some rural areas, with inadequate adherance to rules on wearing masks, social distancing and temperature checks.
Hundreds of people usually travel during the holiday, as this is the time of the year when migrant workers return to their home provinces to see family. Officials expect large numbers of travellers, although many fewer than in normal years.
Norther cities saw millions go under some kind of lockdown amid worries that undetected infections could spread quickly during the Lunar New Year holiday in mid-February. However, the capital’s west train station, which normally sees vast numbers of passengers in the run-up to the Lunar New Year, was virtually empty on Friday morning.
The northern port city of Tianjin said on Friday that all domestic arrivals would have to present a negative COVID-19 test and be subject to 14 days of home observation.
Hebei province, next to Beijing, reported 18 new locally transmitted cases. At the high-speed railway station in its largest city, Shijiazhuang, passengers were allowed to get off a train on Friday but none were seen getting on.
“I’ve never been separated from my daughter over New Year before,” said a woman surnamed Hao, in Shijiazhuang taking care of her mother.
She said she had been told by her neighbourhood she was not allowed to return to Beijing, where the rest of her family are. She hoped restrictions would be lifted in time for them to reunite over the festival.
She said she was determined to get back to Beijing to be with her daughter and her father was in a nursing home there that no longer allowed visitors.
The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 88,804, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,635.