Police personnel in China on Monday blocked citizens from protesting against strict anti-coronavirus measures in several cities, reported the BBC.

A demonstration planned in Beijing could not take place after authorities surrounded the place where the protestors were slated to assemble. A protest in the southern city of Hangzhou was also stopped after authorities made several arrests.

At some places, police officials reportedly checked citizens’ homes to see if they were using virtual private networks, or applications banned in China such as Telegram and Twitter.

A protestor told AFP that on Monday evening, she and five of her friends received calls from the Beijing police, asking them if they took part in the agitation. “The police stressed that last night’s protest was an illegal assembly, and if we had demands then we could submit them through the regular channels,” the woman said.

It was not clear how the police came to know of the identities of some of the protestors.

On Tuesday morning, police was seen patrolling parts of Shanghai and Beijing, where some groups on Telegram had suggested people should gather again, reported The Guardian.

Last week, protests had broken out in several Chinese cities, including Shanghai, Beijing and Wuhan, after 10 persons were killed in a fire at a high-rise building in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region, on November 24.

The protestors have claimed that the victims could not escape as the building was partially locked down. However, city officials denied the claims and instead blamed the residents for being “too weak” to rescue themselves.

On Sunday, the police had arrested two European journalists, who were covering the protests in China against the strict coronavirus measures. BBC journalist Ed Lawrence was arrested in Shanghai and was allegedly beaten up by the police, the British public broadcaster said in a statement.

The second arrested journalist is Michael Peuker, the correspondent for Radio Télévision Suisse, the French-language branch of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. Both journalists have been released.

Zero-Covid policy

Several cities across China have imposed lockdowns and other restrictions to curb the spread of the infection, under zero-Covid policy.

Through the “zero-Covid” strategy, China aims to isolate every patient and eliminate the virus entirely to prevent overwhelming healthcare systems. Some of the norms under the policy were relaxed in November. However, the policy, which has been described as unsustainable by the World Health Organization, is seemingly being implemented again.

On Sunday, China had reported a record 40,347 new Covid-19 infections, of which 3,822 were symptomatic and 36,525 were asymptomatic, reported Reuters citing the National Health Commission.

The country had reported its first Covid-related death in six months on November 20.