Beijing residents rush coronavirus test clinics as emergency rules expand

Beijing has expanded daily testing capacity to 90,000, but the new program puts a strain on resources. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 June 2020

Beijing residents rush coronavirus test clinics as emergency rules expand

  • Residents now require a negative result on a nucleic acid test to travel, officials say
  • Beijing has expanded daily testing capacity to 90,000, but the new program puts a strain on resources

BEIJING: China’s capital has mandated coronavirus tests for hundreds of thousands of people as it widens measures against a new outbreak of the disease that has sent anxious residents flooding to clinics for voluntary tests, putting a strain on the system.
Crowds of masked people waiting for tests have become a common sight in recent days across Beijing, which has tested more than 350,000 people, with many more expected.
“It’s very difficult right now,” said musician Chen Weiwen, 31, whose plans to visit the southwestern city of Chengdu faced a delay because of the wait for a test.
“I don’t mind waiting, but after the test I need to leave in 7 days and there may not be a flight I can get then.”
The measures are part of the city’s “wartime” response to a surge of 158 infections since last week, the majority linked to its huge Xinfadi wholesale food center.
Residents now require a negative result on a nucleic acid test to travel, officials say, as well as to visit some attractions or return to work in industries that involve food handling.
That is in addition to mandatory tests for those with direct links to the market and their close contacts, as well as people in surrounding neighborhoods and frontline health workers.
That could be a large number, as officials say about 200,000 people from all over Beijing have visited Xinfadi since May 30.
“Testing efficiency is high,” Pan Xuhong, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, said on Thursday.
“Those who need to leave Beijing can safely do so once tested negative in a nucleic acid test.”
Staff at a restaurant in the southern Fengtai district said that health workers had tested every employee.
At the same time, state media warned that supplies in the city of 21 million could be strained, and Reuters checks showed waiting times for voluntary appointments stretched to weeks or months in some places.
China, a top producer of nucleic acid tests, could turn out up to 5 million a day, authorities said last month. Beijing has expanded daily testing capacity to 90,000, but the new program puts a strain on resources.
“Some citizens spontaneously go to medical institutions or fever clinics for (tests) and crowding occurs,” the state-run Beijing Daily newspaper said.
That in turn heightened infection risks and pressure on the supply of materials and testing capacity, it added.
A Reuters check showed many testing facilities inundated by those seeking voluntary tests, with bookings filled as soon they opened on the city’s official app.
Just one of 11 test sites telephoned by Reuters answered. The First Medical Center of the People’s Liberation Army Hospital said its next available slot was a month away.
The Beijing effort is China’s latest mass testing exercise, though it is more focused than a similar program in Wuhan, the central city where the virus first surfaced last year, that had tested more than 6 million people in less than 10 days.
In Beijing, people marshalled for mandatory tests in converted parks and sports fields said test times were designated for them in door-to-door checks forming part of a contact tracing campaign.
Those without tickets distributed by organizers would be turned away, one organizer said.


At least two killed as car ploughs into pedestrian zone in German town

Updated 01 December 2020

At least two killed as car ploughs into pedestrian zone in German town

  • The driver was arrested and the vehicle was impounded, Trier police tweeted
  • Two people have died, and 15 others had suffered serious injuries

BERLIN: At least two people including a child were killed and up to 15 injured on Tuesday when a speeding car ploughed into a pedestrian area in the western German city of Trier, authorities said.
Witnesses said people screamed in panic and some were thrown into the air by the car as it crashed through the shopping zone.
Police said several people had been killed, having earlier put the death toll at two, with more than 10 injured. The local newspaper, the Trierischer Volksfreund, put the death toll at four, including a child, but police did not confirm that figure.
"We have arrested one person, one vehicle has been secured," police said, adding that a 51-year-old German suspect from the Trier area was being questioned, police said.
Mayor Wolfram Leibe had rushed to the scene.
"We have a driver who ran amok in the city. We have two dead that we are certain of and up to 15 injured, some of them with the most severe injuries," he told public broadcaster SWR.
"I just walked through the city centre and it was just horrible. There is a trainer lying on the ground, and the girl it belongs to is dead," he told a news conference, with tears stopping him from speaking further.
He told broadcaster N-TV that people who saw the incident were "totally traumatised" and the street "looks a bit like after a war".
Leibe said he did not know the motive for the incident, which shocked residents of Germany's oldest town, founded by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago.
The Trierischer Volksfreund quoted an eyewitness as saying a Range Rover was driving at high speed and people had been thrown through the air. It said the car had Trier plates.
It reported that people screamed in panic when the car drove through the street.
Officers were scouring the area in search of evidence, backed by police dressed in flak jackets and carrying rifles. On the streets, Christmas lights twinkled incongruously.
Germany has tightened security on pedestrian zones across the country since a truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market in 2016 that killed 12 people and injured dozens.
In October 2019, a man opened fire on a synagogue in the city of Halle. After failing to get into the building he went on a rampage outside, killing two people.
In February this year a racist gunman killed nine migrants in Hanau near Frankfurt before killing his mother and himself. Only about a week later, a local man ploughed his car into a carnival parade in the town of Volkmarsen, injuring 61.
Germany has tightened measures to fight the coronavirus, with bars and restaurants closed, but shops and schools are still open.
"What happened in Trier is shocking. Our thoughts are with the relatives of the victims, with the numerous injured and with everyone who is currently on duty to care for the victims," Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, said on Twitter.