Authorities in the Chinese capital have started testing about 2 million people in the centre of the city after two cases of a strain of the coronavirus first detected in Britain were reported in Beijing. The rapid mass campaign started on Friday, a day before the city’s legislature is expected to convene an annual meeting and with just weeks to go until the country’s political heavyweights arrive in the capital for the year’s most important political gatherings. “All districts and work units must make epidemic prevention and control their top priority and spare no efforts in epidemic prevention and handling,” municipal government spokesman Tian Wei said on Friday afternoon, citing orders from the city’s Covid-19 task force. Residents and employees of Beijing’s Dongcheng and Xicheng districts, where most of the central and municipal government agencies are located, were notified late on Thursday night that the tests would start the next morning. Xicheng authorities said the district faced the mounting risk of “imported outbreaks” and would test all residents on Friday and Saturday to “ensure the life safety and health” of residents and employees. Coronavirus mutations pose challenge to vaccine makers Beijing has reported nearly 50 coronavirus cases since a fresh outbreak emerged in eastern Chaoyang district and later Shunyi in the city’s north and Daxing in the south. More than 450,000 people have already been tested in Xicheng and found to be negative. The mass testing was conducted after the capital went into partial lockdown in Daxing and Shunyi, with genetic sequencing revealing two cases of the more transmissible coronavirus variant discovered last month in Britain. The capital has since been on high alert. More than 1,200 people were tested at a school attended by one pupil with an asymptomatic case of the British strain. Each of the contacts at the school had nasal, saliva and anal swabs as well as serum tests – all of which were negative. On Friday, residents and government workers queued in big squares, schools and sporting venues for the tests. Even the Wangfujing shopping area became a test centre with long queues. “I received a text, a call in the morning and another call in the afternoon reminding me to go to have the test done. I left work early to take the test. I don’t want to receive another call,” Dongcheng district resident Wang Tao said. Coronavirus: Chile approves CoronaVac as Chinese manufacturer continues to defend its test results China is battling the worst wave of Covid-19 since it contained the epidemic in Hubei province early last year. Tens of millions have been put under lockdown in northern cities as the caseload has grown over the winter. The authorities have urged people to stay put for the Lunar New Year, the peak travel season of the year. On Friday, China reported 94 local cases, including 47 in northern Heilongjiang province and 19 from Jilin province and 18 in neighbouring Hebei province. Shanghai has imposed lockdowns on two hospitals after finding cases linked to the hospitals’ contract cleaning staff. Six new cases were reported on Friday after two months without a local infection in the city.