(Beijing) A woman is in the crosshairs of authorities in Beijing after spreading “rumours” about an alleged lockdown in the city that has sparked a stampede at supermarkets, police said on Friday.
Posted at 7:09
The Chinese capital has been facing an epidemic resurgence of COVID-19 for several weeks, with generally between 40 and 80 new positive cases of coronavirus being reported every day.
Restaurants and cafes no longer welcome customers. Most shops, parks, cinemas and gyms are closed. Taxis and VTC are banned in certain parts of the city and teleworking is common.
But with some neighborhoods locked down, the vast majority of the country’s 22 million residents can still leave their homes.
However, news broadcast on social networks on Thursday assured that in the afternoon the authorities would announce a three-day detention and the suspension of delivery services – especially of fresh produce.
The rumor prompted an unusual influx of shoppers into supermarkets looking for vegetables, meat, fruit and other basic necessities.
“This news was widely shared on social media, seriously disturbing public order and causing adverse effects,” Beijing police said on microblogging platform Weibo on Friday.
The 38-year-old woman suspected of being the source of the rumor “is the subject of criminal coercion,” police underlined, without specifying the nature.
These measures can consist of several forms of restraint: detention, release from detention or house arrest.
The Ministry of Health announced 50 new positive cases in Beijing on Friday. A figure that, despite the almost daily PCR tests that residents are subjected to, does not reveal any reflux.
However, the decline appears to be underway in Shanghai (east), the main Chinese city hit by the outbreak of the epidemic, where all 25 million residents have been confined since early April.
Around 2,100 new positive cases were announced on Friday – up from more than 25,000 late last month.
City authorities have also said they aim to arrive by “mid-May” to halt contamination within the community (i.e. people housed in a quarantine center) – ahead of a possible lifting of containment.
China is currently facing the worst outbreak since the pandemic began. Authorities are particularly concerned about low immunization coverage among seniors and are urging people 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.
Fearful of seeing infected nationals return to the country, immigration authorities this week reiterated their call for “strict restrictions on non-essential travel abroad by Chinese citizens”.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, China has only issued new passports for compelling reasons such as work or study. A policy that regularly leads to speculation among the population.
The immigration authorities were therefore forced to issue a denial on Friday after rumors spread online that the authorities had stopped issuing passports or even prevented certain nationals from leaving the country.