Beijing Residents Fear Contracting Virus at Crowded, Unsafe Test Sites

Residents who visited or live near Xinfadi Market line up for a nucleic acid test in Beijing on June 19, 2020. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Since the recent resurgence of the CCP virus in Beijing, local authorities have begun mandating testing for certain city residents.

Zhang Qiang, a top official in the city government’s leadership team for virus containment efforts, said at a June 20 press conference that there are 474 testing sites in the city, and 2.3 million people have been tested in the previous seven days.

Some residents who spoke to The Epoch Times said authorities didn’t provide basic safety protection while performing the COVID-19 nucleic acid tests. They’re afraid they may have been exposed to the virus.

Mr. Li, who lives in Fengtai district, visited the Xinfadi food market—which authorities said is ground zero of this latest outbreak—in early June. He was thus required by authorities to take a nucleic acid test at the Bo’ao Testing Center on Kangxin road on June 17.

“I went to the test site and saw more than a thousand people lining up. They were all from nearby residential compounds,” Mr. Li, a resident at the Yanbao-Googong Zhuang residential compound, said in a recent phone interview.

“So many people gathered together is very risky [for contracting the virus],” Li said. “The residential compounds around us even organized buses to transport residents to the testing site,” he added, fearing that the virus would spread easily in such a compact space.

Required Testing

As early as April 19, the Beijing government began promoting the idea of “testing all people who must be tested” and “testing all people who want to be tested.” The required populations included medical staff, government officials who return from business trips, and out-of-towners who were staying at Beijing hotels.

Following the latest outbreak that occurred around mid-June, authorities announced new rules on June 17, in which six groups of people must be tested. They are: people who visited the Xinfadi market in the past 14 days or live at residential compounds where one or more residents were diagnosed with the virus recently, residents living in areas authorities have designated as medium or high risk for virus spread, medical staff and other employees in service sectors, students and teachers who have returned to school, and staff who work at the front lines of disease control and prevention.

After the rule was announced, residents witnessed hundreds of people crowding at testing sites. Due to limited space, people had to stand close to each other.

Authorities didn’t specify what service sectors would need testing, but mentioned that people who aren’t in the six categories but want to operate their businesses also need to take nucleic acid tests, such as fruit and vegetable sellers, restaurant cooks, parcel couriers, and so on.

Many restaurant workers became infected with the virus after they visited the market to pick up produce.

According to the Beijing city government’s latest statistics, more than 416,000 people work in the restaurant sector.

People’s Complaints

Mr. Zhang, who lives close to the Xinfadi market, said everyone in his residential compound was required to get tested.

Zhang said that the medical staff didn’t change their gloves after handling each individual. “They [medical staff] touched our faces and mouths [with the same gloves]. It’s very risky for us to have cross infection.”

Zhang, who took the test on June 15, hasn’t yet received his test result. “They [medical staff] gave me a number and asked me to check online myself. But nobody can open the website,” he said.

“I have no symptoms. I’m afraid I’ll be infected if I go to the testing sites,” Guo said.

Recently, government staff at the residential compound asked Guo to self-isolate at home until the end of June.

The staff told Guo that they use high-tech surveillance to monitor his movements. “If I go out with my phone, they’ll know immediately where I am,” he said. “I visited [Xinfadi market] on June 3. It’s more than ten days ago, but they still force me to quarantine at home.”

Beijing residents also said the nucleic acid test is expensive.

“The testing fee is 180 yuan [$25.5], and people still need to pay for the service fee. One test costs people over 200 yuan [$28.3],” the health department insider told The Epoch Times. “A restaurant employee needs to spend more than 800 yuan [$113.2] to test every month.”

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