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Beijing residents panic buy as district undergoes mass testing for COVID-19

Beijing residents snapped up food and other supplies as the city’s biggest district began mass testing of all residents on Monday, prompting fears of a Shanghai-style lockdown after dozens of COVID-19 cases in the capital in recent days.
Authorities in Chaoyang, home to 3.45 million people, late on Sunday ordered residents and those who work there to be tested three times this week as Beijing warned the virus had “stealthily” spread in the city for about a week before being detected.

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“I’m preparing for the worst,” said a graduate student in the nearby Haidian district surnamed Zhang, who placed online orders for dozens of snacks and 10 pounds of apples.
Shoppers in the city crowded stores and online platforms to stock up on leafy vegetables, fresh meat, instant noodles and rolls of toilet paper.
In Shanghai, where most of its 25 million residents have been locked down for weeks, the main food supply bottleneck has been the lack of enough couriers to make deliveries to homes, fueling anger among residents.
In Beijing, supermarket chains including Carrefour and Wumart said they had more than doubled inventories, while Meituan’s grocery-focused e-commerce platform increased stocks and the number of staffers for sorting and delivery, according to the state-backed Beijing Daily.
Since Friday, Beijing has reported 47 locally transmitted cases, with Chaoyang accounting for more than half of them.
Even in districts such as Haidian that have yet to report any cases in the current outbreak, there is a sense of growing unease over food supply.

Areas under lockdown

While the Chinese capital's caseload is small compared to those globally and the hundreds of thousands in Shanghai, Chaoyang district told residents to reduce public activities, although most schools, stores and offices remained open.
Chinese shares tumbled on Monday, with the blue-chip CSI300 index closing down 4.9 percent at a two-year low, weighed by worries Beijing was on the verge of joining Shanghai in lockdowns.

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The Shanghai Composite Index slumped 5.1 percent.
Beijing’s Chaoyang district is home to many wealthy residents, most foreign embassies as well as entertainment venues and corporate headquarters. It has little manufacturing.
“The current outbreak in Beijing is spreading stealthily from sources that remained unknown yet and is developing rapidly,” a municipality official said on Sunday.
More than a dozen buildings in Chaoyang have been put under lockdown. For the rest of the district, people were to be tested on Monday and again on Wednesday and Friday.
On Monday morning, people queued at makeshift testing sites manned by medical workers in protective suits. Under mass testing campaigns in China, multiple samples are tested together.
“I came as the notice suggested, at 6 a.m., for testing just to make sure that I can get to work on time,” said a man in his 30s queuing for a test in his residential compound.
By the early afternoon, movement restrictions in one part of Chaoyang were tightened, with residents told not to leave the area at all and not to leave their local compounds for non-essential reasons, state television reported.

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WHO: Over 4.1 million new COVID-19 cases reported globally, 18 pct increase 

The number of new coronavirus cases rose by 18 percent in the last week, with more than 4.1 million cases reported globally, according to the World Health Organization.

The UN health agency said in its latest weekly report on the pandemic that the worldwide number of deaths remained relatively similar to the week before, at about 8,500. COVID-related deaths increased in three regions: the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Americas.

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The biggest weekly rise in new COVID-19 cases was seen in the Middle East, where they increased by 47 percent, according to the report released late Wednesday. Infections rose by about 32 percent in Europe and Southeast Asia, and by about 14 percent in the Americas, WHO said.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said cases were on the rise in 110 countries, mostly driven by the omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5.

“This pandemic is changing, but it’s not over,” Tedros said this week during a press briefing.

He said the ability to track COVID-19’s genetic evolution was “under threat” as countries relaxed surveillance and genetic sequencing efforts, warning that would make it more difficult to catch emerging and potentially dangerous new variants.

He called for countries to immunize their most vulnerable populations, including health workers and people over 60, saying that hundreds of millions remain unvaccinated and at risk of severe disease and death.

Tedros said that while more than 1.2 billion COVID-19 vaccines have been administered globally, the average immunization rate in poor countries is about 13 percent.

“If rich countries are vaccinating children from as young as 6 months old and planning to do further rounds of vaccination, it is incomprehensible to suggest that lower-income countries should not vaccinate and boost their most at risk (people),” he said.

According to figures compiled by Oxfam and the People's Vaccine Alliance, fewer than half of the 2.1 billion vaccines promised to poorer countries by the Group of Seven large economies have been delivered.

Earlier this month, the United States authorized COVID-19 vaccines for infants and preschoolers, rolling out a national immunization plan targeting 18 million of the youngest children. American regulators also recommended that some adults get updated boosters in the fall that match the latest coronavirus variants.

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France’s new wave of COVID-19 infections expected to peak end of July

A new wave in France of COVID-19 infections fueled by emerging variants of the disease should peak toward end-July, the French government’s top scientific adviser Jean-Francois Delfraissy said on Thursday.
“The peak is not yet here, this peak of infections will probably be for end-July,” Delfraissy told RTL radio.
“Then the BA.5 variant will reappear, if it is not overtaken by another variant… in autumn,” he added.
For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.
France reported new 124,724 coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, against 77,967 a week ago.
The French government also recommended this week that people should start wearing face masks again in crowded areas, especially in public transport, to counter the latest surge in COVID-19 cases.
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Shanghai Disneyland theme park re-opens after three-month COVID-19 closure 

More than a thousand visitors streamed in on Thursday as Walt Disney Co’s Shanghai Disney Resort theme park opened after a closure of three months, with face masks and social distancing the order of the day.
The park shut on March 21 as cases rose in the Chinese business hub, leading to a two-month-long citywide lockdown that eased on June 1. Just over a week later, the resort began opening some areas, with the theme park the last to re-open.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

Among the first of Thursday's visitors was Zhang Yudong, a 19-year-old student wearing a Mickey Mouse wizard hat and T-shirt donned for the occasion.
“It really feels like coming back home. I was so excited,” said Zhang, who holds a Disneyland annual pass. “I had been looking forward to the day. One question I would ask everyday is, ‘When will it reopen?’”
Before its March closure, the park had enforced COVID-19 measures required by the authorities, such as face masks and regular disinfection.
After the re-opening, it requires guests to show proof of a negative COVID test taken within the last 72 hours, in line with rules for public areas in Shanghai and other cities.
The park has also said it will limit capacity, but gave no details, adding that some attractions, such as Marvel Universe, will stay closed.
Shanghai Disneyland is a joint venture with Chinese state-owned Shendi Group, which holds a 57 percent stake.

Read more: China’s Xi warns against ‘herd immunity,’ says COVID-Zero policy works best

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