- Beijing will test most of its 22 million people for COVID this week
- Beijing steps up precautions and restrictions to avoid Shanghai lockdown
- Shanghai focuses on vaccinating the elderly
BEIJING/SHANGHAI, April 28 (Reuters) – Beijing closed some schools and public spaces on Thursday as most of the Chinese capital’s 22 million residents showed up for more mass COVID-19 testing aimed at avoiding a Shanghai type lock.
Most Shanghai residents have spent a month in stressful isolation at home, struggling to meet basic needs. But there was hope on the horizon as the number of new cases fell further and officials said their attention was turning to increasing vaccinations among the elderly. Read more
Fears were growing, however, that China could be trapped in a mole game in the coming months, lifting lockdowns in some places, while imposing others elsewhere, causing severe economic damage and infuriating its population.
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As Beijing rolled out three rounds of mass testing this week across most of the city, it locked down a number of residential compounds, offices and a university.
Some schools, entertainment venues and tourist sites have also been closed. Universal Studios in Beijing said it would require visitors from Friday to show negative test results before they can enter the theme park.
Andrew Ward, 36, a Canadian living in one of Beijing’s narrow courtyard house lanes known as hutongs, was sent to quarantine at a hotel on Thursday even though his test results were negative.
On Wednesday, people in hazmat suits tested Ward at home after he was identified as a close contact of a COVID case.
“I’m a bit annoyed because I’ve spent all this money and time storing food to be locked up at home,” said Ward, who works at an international school.
Beijing had discovered 56 new locally transmitted COVID cases as of 3:00 p.m. (0700 GMT) Thursday since 3:00 p.m. the previous day, a city health official said.
The city’s overall tally in the current outbreak has risen to 194, nearly half of which were detected in Chaoyang, its most populous district known for its nightlife, shopping malls and embassies.
China’s zero-tolerance COVID policy has drawn rare public anger in a momentous year for President Xi Jinping, over measures that seem surreal to much of the outside world who have chosen to live with the virus. , even as infections spread.
Xi is expected to win a third term in office this fall and authorities would like to avoid a repeat in the capital of scenes in Shanghai, where some residents leaned out of their windows to beat pots and pans in anger as people in protective gear erected fences around their homes.
Chinese authorities have repeatedly said that tough COVID restrictions, including extended lockdowns, are needed to save as many lives as possible and prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed.
In democratically-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own, authorities are gradually easing restrictions even as daily COVID cases top 10,000 for the first time. Only seven people have died there from COVID this year. Read more
The Chinese yuan slid to an 18-month low against the US dollar on Thursday as COVID outbreaks and lockdowns threatened this year’s economic growth target of around 5.5%.
However, stock markets (.CSI300), (.SSEC) were at two-year lows ahead of further stimulus after Premier Li Keqiang pledged to stabilize jobs and relaunch chains supply disruptions.
Nomura analysts estimate that 46 cities are currently in full or partial lockdown, affecting 343 million people.
Societe Generale estimates that provinces with significant mobility restrictions represent 80% of gross domestic product (GDP). Read more
Millions of white and blue collar workers whose livelihoods depend on mobility between cities have faced severe travel restrictions in recent weeks and the movement of goods has also suffered. Read more
A Department of Transportation official estimated that passenger traffic for the April 30-May 4 Labor Day break would drop 62% from a year ago.
China’s problems reverberate far beyond its borders.
Industrial conglomerates GE (GE.N) and 3M (MMM.N), and chipmakers Texas Instruments (TXN.O) and SK Hynix (000660.KS) have warned that COVID restrictions in China are hurting their revenues. Read more
A lockdown in Beijing, which has little manufacturing and where many workers can do their jobs from home, wouldn’t be as economically damaging. Nevertheless, the capital is engaged in a race against time to avoid the misadventures of Shanghai.
New infections in Shanghai were below 100 a day in early March before rising to thousands by the end of the month during China’s largest-ever outbreak, sparking a citywide lockdown and upending the lives of its 25 million inhabitants.
Most residents of the mall remain confined to their homes, but authorities have focused on post-lockdown measures, including setting up temporary vaccination posts in care homes and preparing community vaccination vehicles.
“Provided that epidemic risks are contained, and with the elderly as the focal point, we actively promote vaccinations against COVID-19,” said Zhao Dandan, deputy director of the municipal health commission.
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Reporting by Ryan Woo, David Stanway, Thomas Suen, Eduardo Baptista, Albee Zhang and Yifan Wang; Written by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Kim Coghill
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