Wary of the high transmissibility of the omicron variant, officials in Beijing ordered 20 million residents across nearly a dozen districts to undergo mass testing earlier this week, after dozens of new coronavirus cases were detected in the Chinese capital. Though authorities have stopped short of confining residents to their homes for now, fears of an impending lockdown like the one imposed in Shanghai have prompted a wave of panic buying across the city.
City residents have stocked up on food and other essential supplies, stripping the shelves of supermarkets bare. “My colleagues in Shanghai learned the lesson the hard way—they are strongly urging me to hoard as much as possible, at least a month’s worth of supplies,” Shi Wei, a 32-year-old hospitality worker told the Financial Times.
The developments in Beijing are the latest stress test for the Chinese government’s “zero COVID” strategy, which employs intensive testing and tracing combined with partial or total lockdowns when a coronavirus case is detected, to swiftly bring outbreaks under control.