COVID-19 in China | Police crack down on Beijing lockdown ‘rumours’

(Beijing) A woman is in the crosshairs of authorities in Beijing after spreading “rumors” of an alleged lockdown in the city, which sparked a rush in supermarkets, police said on Friday.

Posted yesterday at 7:09

The Chinese capital has been facing an epidemic rebound of COVID-19 for several weeks, with between 40 and 80 new positive cases of coronavirus generally announced each day.

Restaurants and cafes no longer welcome customers. Most businesses, parks, cinemas and gymnasiums are closed. Taxis and VTC are prohibited in certain parts of the city and teleworking is widespread.

But if a few neighborhoods are confined, the vast majority of the 22 million inhabitants can still leave their homes.

PHOTO LIU JIN, AGENCY FRANCE-PRESSE

Residents of Pudong district line up to be tested for COVID-19.

However, messages broadcast Thursday on social networks assured that the authorities were going to announce in the afternoon a three-day confinement and the suspension of delivery services – in particular of fresh products.

The rumor led to an unusual influx of shoppers into supermarkets looking for vegetables, meat, fruit and other basic necessities.

“This message was widely disseminated on social media, which seriously disturbed public order and had adverse effects,” Beijing police said on the Weibo microblogging platform on Friday.

The 38-year-old woman suspected of being the source of the rumor “is the subject of coercive criminal measures”, underlined the police, without specifying the nature.

These measures may consist of several forms of restriction of freedom: detention, release pending trial or placement under house arrest.

The Ministry of Health announced 50 new positive cases in Beijing on Friday. A figure that does not mark any reflux, despite the almost daily PCR tests to which the inhabitants are subjected.

However, the decline seems to be underway in Shanghai (east), the main Chinese city affected by the epidemic outbreak and where all of the 25 million inhabitants have been confined since the beginning of April.

Some 2,100 new positive cases were announced on Friday – up from more than 25,000 at the end of last month.

The municipal authorities have also announced that they hope to arrive by “mid-May” to stop contamination within society (that is to say, excluding people placed in a quarantine center) – prior to a possible lifting of containment.

Passports

China is currently facing its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic. The authorities are particularly concerned about the low rate of vaccination among seniors and are pushing them to get vaccinated.

Only 82% of people aged 60 and over have received at least two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, a health ministry official said Friday.

For fear of seeing infected nationals return to the country, the immigration authorities reiterated their call this week to “strictly limit non-essential travel by Chinese citizens abroad”.

Since the start of the pandemic, China has only issued new passports for reasons deemed essential such as work or studies. A policy that regularly leads to speculation from the population.

The immigration services thus had to publish a denial on Friday after rumors on the internet ensuring that the authorities had stopped issuing passports, or even prevented certain nationals from leaving the country.