Parts of Beijing began mass COVID-19 testing on Monday, prompting concerns of a lockdown and panic buying because of an uptick in cases.
Only 70 cases had been detected since Friday in the city of 21 million people. But Chaoyang, which is one of the largest districts in the city with a population of 3.5 million, announced on Sunday it would launch a mass testing effort.
Of Beijing’s 70 cases, 46 were in Chaoyang, Reuters reported, citing a local health official.
Following the announcement, people in Beijing hurried to supermarkets and the country’s stock markets dropped amid fears of a longer, stringent lockdown, the news service added.
“The city has recently seen several outbreaks involving multiple transmission chains, and the risk of continued and undetected transmission is high. The situation is urgent and grim,” municipal official Tian Wei said on Saturday, CNN reported. “The whole city must act immediately.”
Workers and residents in the area must endure three rounds of mass testing in the next five days, according to The New York Times.
During China’s “zero-COVID” approach to the pandemic, mass testing has often preceded shutdowns.
Shanghai has been shut down for weeks, as residents struggle to have enough food and supplies delivered to them.
Since then, some residents have been permitted to go outside but leaders have left other mitigation measures in place as the city had confirmed 19,455 cases on Sunday, the Times noted.