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Global Times

Tougher COVID-19 checks mean longer commute for Beijing's satellite town residents

Global Times

By Zhao Yusha and Wan Lin Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/29 18:23:41

Strict COVID-19 prevention rules in Beijing and Hebei Province have meant that the checking of paperwork, including valid nucleic acid tests, has brought great inconvenience to Beijing employees who live in Yanjiao, a commuter town in Hebei, prolonging their already grueling commute to work.

The Beijing government required on Sunday that all travelers going out of the capital need to hold negative nucleic acid results valid from within seven days, or will be forbidden from leaving Beijing.

After the rule was issued, many commuters who live in a nearby Hebei city complained that they were now stuck in Beijing due to the temporary new policy.

Wang Qiang (pseudonym), a resident of Yanjiao of Hebei who works in Beijing, told the Global Times on Monday that he, along with thousands of people like him who had not yet obtained test results, walked about three kilometers on Saturday night in order to steer clear of an inspection station in order to get home.

According to media reports, there are an estimated 300,000 commuters who have to travel from Hebei Province to work in Beijing on a daily basis. They choose to spend four or five hours on average on their commute every day due to cheaper accommodation in the Hebei city.

The distance between Beijing and Yanjiao is almost 30 kilometers.

Tony Zhu, a Yanjiao resident who works in a Beijing-based news agency, told the Global Times on Monday that inspections on people leaving Beijing became tougher on June 23, when everyone had to get their IDs checked to show their risk level, increasing the time spent getting back home from one hour to three and a half hours.

The Beijing government announced on June 22 that those who leave the capital must provide negative nucleic acid test results from within the last seven days.

"Though the inspection process took less than one minute, the problem is there are too few inspection workers for too many people making their commute," Zhu said, noting that the long waiting times on the way prompted commuters on outbound buses to Yanjiao to get off and walk back home, which for some people was a distance of 5 or 6 kilometers.

Mr. Zhang, a resident in Xianghe, another Hebei city, told the Global Times that despite lack of nucleic acid test, the police still let him pass on Sunday night. "They asked to see my ID card and reminded me to get a nucleic acid test, and then let me go home."

Zhang said that the police issued him a pass to leave Beijing, which is specialized for commuters, and valid only on Sunday as buffer period for this newly issued policy.

Zhang said he applied to work from home, and will go back to the office after his nucleic acid test result comes out.

An operator from Beijing municipal government told the Global Times on Monday that those commuters can come in and out of the capital freely with just one nucleic acid test result valid for "recent days," and no need to do nucleic acid test every seven days.

Wang said the limited testing capacity in Yanjiao also poses great inconvenience for those commuters. "There's only three or four hospitals here, with the capacity of testing three or four thousand people on a daily basis."

The Beijing government operator told the Global Times that, holding work permits issued by Beijing employers, residence proof, Hebei commuters can choose to do test either in Beijing or Hebei, and the result is recognized by both places. They are also exempted from a 14 day quarantine that is imposed by many places on people from Beijing, said the employee.

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