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Panic buying in Beijing as city adds new quarantine centers

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BEIJING (AP) — Residents of the Chinese capital were clearing the shelves of supermarkets and bulk delivery apps on Friday as the city government ordered the rapid construction of COVID-19 quarantine centers and field hospitals.

Uncertainty and scattered, unconfirmed reports of a lockdown in at least some districts of Beijing have fueled demand for food and other supplies to levels the city had not seen in months.

Daily cases of COVID-19 break records nationwide with 32,695 on Friday. Of these, 1,860 were in Beijing, most of whom had no symptoms.

Hastily built makeshift quarantine centers and field hospitals in gymnasiums, exhibition centers and other large, open indoor spaces have become notorious for overcrowding, poor sanitation, scarce food supplies and 24-hour lighting.

Most residents of the city have already been advised not to leave their premises, some of which are fenced. At the entrances, workers dressed in white hazmat suits block unauthorized visitors from head to toe and make residents scan their health apps on their mobile phones to gain entry. ,

Some grocery delivery services in Beijing have reached capacity.

Strong demand combined with labor shortages prevented some customers from reserving same-day slots for food and supplies from popular online grocery services such as Alibaba’s Freshippo and Meituan Macai on Friday.

Online, some Chinese users said there were delivery drivers whose premises were closed, adding to the labor shortage. The Associated Press was unable to independently verify those reports.

Alibaba did not immediately comment.

At a Friday afternoon press conference, city government spokesman Xu Hejian said it was necessary to “strengthen the management and service guarantees” of quarantine centers and field hospitals where people who test positive for COVID-19 or have been in close contact with a infected person. is taken away by the police.

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Xu said authorities should “further accelerate” their construction and “coordinate the allocation of space, facilities, materials, personnel and other resources”.

Officials have repeatedly urged China in recent days to stick to its tough “zero-covid” policy that calls for lockdowns, mass testing and quarantining anyone exposed to the virus. makes it mandatory. The policy is seen as taking a heavy toll on the economy and upsetting lives in many Chinese cities, prompting the World Health Organization and others to make changes to the deal – angrily rejected by the ruling Communist Party. Is.

The associated press

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