Huge Crowds Gather in Beijing to Wait for Coronavirus Tests as Cases Spike

Massive crowds of people have been gathering outside testing centers in Beijing over the past few days after cases of new coronavirus infections spiked during the past week in the Chinese capital.

Videos uploaded to social media show Beijing residents crowded together wearing masks as they wait to be tested. Officials in the city of nearly 22 million people have said that about 3.5 million residents have already been tested since a local man was identified last week to have the first domestic infection there in nearly two months, The Washington Post reported.

Overall, the city's number of infections remains small compared to the general population, with 158 infections confirmed since June 11, according to the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post (SCMP). Meanwhile, the city has implemented some stringent measures as local officials aim to contain the virus. Schools and colleges were shuttered as of Wednesday and individuals suspected to have contracted the virus have been banned from traveling.

Beijing coronavirus testing
People who have had contact with the Xinfadi wholesale market or someone who has, line up for a nucleic acid test for the novel coronavirus at a testing center on June 17 in Beijing, China Lintao Zhang/Getty

Newsweek reached out to the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. for comment, but representatives did not respond by the time of publication. Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the outbreak is under control.

"Newly reported cases do not equal new infections," Wu said on Thursday, the SCMP reported.

"Analysis of symptom onset, which is days earlier [than when the case is confirmed], and infection, which is even earlier, shows that the 21 new patients probably contracted the virus before June 12," he said. "If we draw a graph, the peak of new infections was on June 13 [Saturday]."

The bulk of Beijing's new cases arose at the Xinfadi wholesale food center. As a result, officials moved quickly to shutter the market and to test workers as well as people who had shopped at Xinfadi.

"All personnel in the Xinfadi market and nearby residents will receive nucleic acid tests and be put under medical observation. Those who have had close contact with workers at the market since May 30 should take the initiative to report to their employers and communities, and go through testing," Xu Hejian, a spokesperson for the local government, said on Sunday.

Beijing coronavirus
People who have had contact with the Xinfadi Wholesale Market or someone who has, line up for a nucleic acid test for the novel coronavirus at a testing center on June 16 in Beijing, China Kevin Frayer/Getty

Although the novel coronavirus pandemic was first discovered in China, it has rapidly spread around the world. The original outbreak was in the Chinese city of Wuhan, beginning in November. China has largely curbed the spread of the virus through stringent lockdown measures in areas where outbreaks have cropped up in conjunction with large-scale testing and contact tracing.

The nation of nearly 1.4 billion people has confirmed just under 85,000 infections overall and 4,638 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, close to 8.4 million people have been infected and nearly 450,000 have died.

The East Asian nation has, however, faced significant criticism, particularly for its early response to the outbreak. Chinese officials in Wuhan initially tried to cover up the outbreak, which public health experts have said allowed the novel virus to spread unmitigated for several weeks.