With new signs of despair in Shanghai, Beijing has stepped up its segregation efforts to end its month-old COVID outbreak, with the city of 25 million preparing to lift a protracted lockdown in just one week with some remorseful unjust barriers.
Even China’s strenuous efforts to completely eradicate covid – its “zero-covid” approach – bite the potential of the world’s second-largest economy, with the number of newly reported infections far below the level seen in many western cities. The capital reported 48 new cases out of a population of 22 million for Monday, with Shanghai reporting less than 500.
Nevertheless, Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, during a visit to Beijing, called for more thorough measures to reduce virus transmission and adhere to the country’s zero-covid policy, state news agency Xinhua reported Tuesday.
The situation in Beijing was manageable, but efforts to control it could not be easier, he said, according to Xinhua.
As an example of the harshness of Beijing’s approach, about 1,800 people in the vicinity of one city were relocated to Zhangjiakou, in the nearby Hebei province, for quarantine, the state-sponsored Beijing Daily reported.
Residents of six of the capital’s 16 districts still have instructions to work from home, while three more districts have encouraged people to follow such measures, with each district responsible for implementing its own guidelines.
Beijing has already reduced public transport, closing some shopping malls and other places and requesting to seal off buildings where new cases have been identified.
In Shanghai, authorities plan to maintain most restrictions this month, before a more complete lifting of the two-month-old lockdown from June 1. Even then, public venues need to limit the flow of people to 75% capacity.
With Shanghai officially declared a zero-quad city, some authorities last week allowed more people to leave their homes for a short time and allowed more supermarkets and pharmacies to reopen and deliver.
Other lower-level officials, however, separately tightened restrictions in some neighborhoods, instructing residents to return indoors to cement the progress made so far on the city’s final level of exit from the lockdown.
This has led to complaints of frustration and unequal treatment among some residents.
Although the zero-COVID condition describes the entire city, and some compound residents have been allowed to move freely inside and outside their homes, others have been told that they can only go outside for a few hours, and many of those who were trapped said nothing.
Videos posted on social media this week showed residents arguing with authorities to evict them from their residential compounds.
The Shanghai government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A resident told Reuters that people in his compound had decided to go out in groups on the WeChat social media platform.
“Let’s strike at our gate tonight to be allowed out like the other compounds in our neighborhood,” he quoted one of his neighbors as saying in a group chat.
He then shared a video showing a group of people arguing at the entrance to the compound with a man who described himself as a deputy district officer, telling residents to go back inside and discuss the situation.
“Don’t bother with him,” said one man while some people were socializing outside the compound.
At least two other compound people were planning to try to get out even though they were not allowed to do so, residents said.
At a time when most other countries are moving to models of living with the virus, China’s cowardly systems are hurting its economy, as well as disrupting the global supply chain.
Many analysts expect the economy to shrink in the second quarter, even if the overall COVID situation across China and economic activity improve this month compared to April.
To support the economy, China will expand tax credit rebates, provide social security and suspend debt repayment by smaller companies, and launch new investment projects, among other measures, state television quoted the cabinet as saying.
In a positive signal for Shanghai, electric vehicle giant Tesla plans to reach production levels on Tuesday as before the lockdown at its city plant, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters.
Nomura analysts estimate that as of May 23, 26 Chinese cities are implementing complete or partial lockdown or other COVID measures, accounting for 208 million people and accounting for 20.5% of China’s economic output. This will be less than the previous week’s 271 million and 27% of the output.
“For us, however, this is a vacation rather than a turning point,” analysts wrote in a note. They say that crossing a turning point will depend exclusively on getting out of the zero-quad strategy, and not so much on daily case numbers and monthly activity data.