Beijing launches mass testing amid slight drop in daily tally

People lining up to get tested for Covid-19 in Beijing yesterday, as China battles its worst outbreak of the disease since March. Some districts in the capital launched mass testing following several consecutive days of new cases in the city, with lo
People lining up to get tested for Covid-19 in Beijing yesterday, as China battles its worst outbreak of the disease since March. Some districts in the capital launched mass testing following several consecutive days of new cases in the city, with long queues forming in certain parts of the town. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • Beijing launched mass Covid-19 testing in some areas yesterday, while Shanghai was testing all hospital staff, as China battles its worst outbreak of the disease since March and families fret over reunion plans for the Chinese New Year amid new curbs.

Mainland China reported a slight decline in new daily Covid-19 cases yesterday - 103 cases from 144 a day earlier.

Of these new cases, 94 were local transmissions: North-eastern Heilongjiang reported 47 new cases, while Jilin province reported 19 new cases.

Shanghai reported six new cases, while the capital Beijing reported three new cases.

Some districts in Beijing launched mass Covid-19 testing following several consecutive days of new cases in the city, with long queues forming in certain parts of the town.

Shanghai began testing all hospital staff for the disease on Thursday, after two such workers tested positive.

Almost all of the local transmissions and asymptomatic cases in Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province, were linked to a meat processing plant owned by a joint venture between Thailand's top agro-industrial conglomerate, CP Group, and a local development zone, according to a statement by local officials.

It is thought to be the first cluster of cases in a meat plant in China, although such facilities have been hot spots for pandemic outbreaks elsewhere in the world.

The joint venture could not be immediately reached for comment.

Tens of millions of people have been under some kind of lockdown in northern cities amid worries that undetected infections could spread quickly during the Chinese New Year holiday, which is just weeks away.

Hundreds of millions of people usually travel during the holiday, in mid-February this year, as migrant workers return to their home provinces to see family.

Officials expect large numbers of travellers, although much fewer than in normal years.

Hebei province, next to Beijing, reported 18 new locally transmitted cases.

At the high-speed railway station in its largest city Shijiazhuang, passengers were allowed to get off a train yesterday but none were seen getting on.

"I've never been separated from my daughter over New Year before," said a woman surnamed Hao, who is in Shijiazhuang taking care of her mother and has been told by her neighbourhood that she is now not allowed to return to Beijing, where the rest of her family are.

Ms Hao is hoping that restrictions will lift in time for them to reunite over the festival.

"When (my daughter) was studying abroad in London, I flew there on New Year's Eve. She is my motivation to go back," she said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2021, with the headline 'Beijing launches mass testing amid slight drop in daily tally'. Subscribe