What Was All That Panic Buying About in Beijing Yesterday?

By Alistair Baker-Brian, May 13, 2022

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Did you notice that shops and supermarkets were a little busier than usual yesterday afternoon in Beijing? Did you see people heading to the check-outs with piles of food and other essentials? 

It was a false alarm. 

Rumors started circulating online that Beijing would enter a “silent period” (a less scary sounding version of lockdown?) for three days. So, just like people did not so long ago in the capital, they went out to the stores and they stockpiled. 

It later emerged that there was no plans to implement a “silent period.” According to SINA News, police identified a 38 year old woman as having posted the following online at around 1pm on May 12: 

“This afternoon at the Press Conference (on COVID-19 Epidemic Control), they will announce a ‘silent period’ for Beijing over the next three days. All waimai and other delivery services in the city will be temporarily halted. Everyone should stock up on supplies for the next three days.” 

The Tongzhou district Public Security Bureau later investigated the source of the rumor and criminally charged the woman in question. 

The 332nd Press Conference on COVID-19 Epidemic Prevention and Control by the Beijing Information Office took place at around 5pm on May 12 after the rumor had started circulating. It was announced at the press conference that waimai and other delivery services would continue in Beijing, and that the city would not be locked down, nor would it enter a 3-day “silent period.” 

On Weibo, some Beijing residents were pictured listening to the Press Conference on their phones as they were stocking up on supplies. 


Beijing residents can be seen shopping while listening for news from the Press Conference. Image via Weibo/@古大小姐

On the Press Conference live stream, one commenter joked that they were about to pay at the supermarket check-out desk, and that if no lockdown was announced, they wouldn’t bother paying. 

Some That’s readers told us via WeChat that they had witnessed people panic buying supplies in supermarkets. However, others said the situation was normal in their respective parts of the city.  

A number of restrictions remain in place in the capital. In-house dining is still banned; certain areas of the city, most notably parts of Chaoyang and Fangshan districts, have implemented stricter COVID measures than elsewhere; taxis and ride-hailing services are restricted in parts of the city; many Beijing Subway stations are closed; and many parks and tourist sites have closed to the public. 

READ MORE: Beijing to Stop Waimai Delivery?... No

However, Beijing has not announced any plans for a full-scale citywide lockdown. Fingers crossed we don’t head down that road.

[Cover image via Weibo/@财新网]

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