Beijing’s latest daily caseload was 52, with authorities discovering a few dozen new infections on an almost daily basis despite gradually tightening restrictions over the past three weeks or so.

Dine-in services are banned in the capital, some malls and other businesses are shut, public transport curtailed and many residents have been advised to work from home.

Residents in some COVID-affected parts of Beijing’s Fengtai district were ordered not to leave their neighbourhoods, state television reported on Tuesday.

In Beijing’s largest district, Chaoyang, some compounds have closed side exits while main gates are manned by volunteers checking health credentials on the mobile app authorities use to track COVID.

Security personnel patrolled the banks of the nearby Liangma canal, which has become a picnic spot in recent weeks for residents not allowed to go elsewhere. Signs had been put up asking people to “avoid crowds, gatherings and eating together”.

Data this week showed the havoc wreaked on the economy by the lockdown in Shanghai and the curbs in dozens of other major cities, with retail sales and industrial output plunging at their fastest pace in more than two years in April.

China’s uncompromising “zero COVID” policy has placed hundreds of millions of consumers and workers under various restrictions at a time when the rest of the world is lifting them to “live with the virus” even as infections spread.

But the difficulty of eliminating new outbreaks, as shown by Beijing’s struggles, raises concern over the sustainability of any return to normal life in Shanghai and elsewhere once restrictions are lifted.

China’s unswerving commitment to the zero-COVID policy, no matter the economic costs, means questions over the outlook will linger.

“The pace of recovery is likely to depend on the speed of normalisation in Shanghai and Beijing and how fast confidence will return to the private sector,” Societe Generale strategists said in a note.

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