Beijingers were fed up with tightening restrictions

Beijingers were fed up with tightening restrictions


Schools and shops closed, restaurants empty and fears of being locked down at any moment – the Chinese capital is a cauldron of anxiety and fatigue as Covid tightens the reins nearly three years into the pandemic.

As infections mount in Beijing, residents are increasingly fed up with navigating vague, shifting restrictions and weary with the uncertainty of how long they might last.

“I’m sick of everything now, there’s nobody on the street,” said Elaine, an office worker in her 20s.

“I want to eat out and meet friends, but it’s impossible,” she told AFP.

A French expat living in Beijing was unexpectedly locked in her boyfriend’s apartment on Monday morning after an overnight stay – one of his neighbors became infected, sealing off the entire building for five days.

“Every time we go to sleep we’re not sure if we’ll be locked in our own apartment the next morning,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous.

“The only thing we have left is the freedom to walk the streets and breathe fresh air.”

Test queues now routinely stretch blocks, while organizations struggle to manage often unclear red lines.

The fact that information often comes through word of mouth — verbal orders to close restaurants and businesses filtered through the subdistrict or neighborhood committee level — has only compounded the misery.

– empty streets –

Beijing’s tightened restrictions come as the city reports its highest number of daily infections to date, but at around 1,500 cases, the numbers remain low by international standards.

And nearly three years into the pandemic, the response from public health officials seems disproportionate as the rest of the world has learned to live with the virus.

Residents fear a similar shutdown to that imposed in China’s largest city Shanghai in the spring, prompting food shortages, protests and scenes of chaos as people fled speed limit closures.

Beijing’s downtown Sanlitun mall, with its now-closed malls and western boutiques, and the densely populated Chaoyang central business district are deserted.

Hairdressers, spas and other services considered non-essential have also been closed.

A former gym worker in Chaoyang left Beijing after her workplace was shut down during an outbreak in May, the last time restrictions were this severe.

“The recent Covid wave has had a major impact on people’s lives, especially those working in the service sector and fitness enthusiasts,” the woman, surnamed Xu, told AFP.

“Accidental closures of some PCR test booths have also affected people who need a 24-hour test result to go to work,” she added.

“Many of my former gym colleagues left Beijing due to lack of salary.”

Meanwhile, in Dongcheng District, the capital’s historical heart, crammed with imperial monuments and government ministries, restaurants are barricaded by tables laden with takeout bags.

An employee at a noodle shop in the district, surnamed Wang, told AFP that profits have fallen “99 percent” since restaurants were ordered to only serve takeout.

“We now earn only a few hundred yuan a day from takeout deliveries,” he said.

“I hope the city reopens soon, otherwise we won’t be able to make up for the losses.”

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