2022 – Some in Beijing return to work, Shanghai nears end of COVID lockdown By Reuters

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© Reuters. A medical worker takes a swab sample from a man on a street during lockdown amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Shanghai, China, May 30, 2022. REUTERS/Ali Song

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Written by Ryan Wu and Winnie Chou

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Streets in Beijing were more crowded on Monday as residents in two districts were allowed to return to work, while Shanghai came close to lifting its two-month-long coronavirus lockdown on Wednesday as the number of infected rose. Infected. Across China has fallen.

China is the only country among the major countries to pursue a relentless “zero COVID” policy, which aims to stem the outbreak at all costs while most of the world tries to live with the virus.

China reports hundreds of new cases every day, compared to many Western countries which report tens of thousands of new COVID cases every day.

Severe coronavirus-related restrictions, notably a strict lockdown of China’s most populous city, have hurt the world’s second-largest economy, disrupting global supply chains and international trade.

But maybe there will be a break soon.

In the capital, Beijing, Fangshan and Shunyi districts have ended work from home rules, while public transportation has largely resumed in the two provinces, as well as in Chaoyang District, the city’s largest.

Libraries, museums, theaters and gyms were allowed to reopen Sunday in counties that had not had coronavirus cases in the community for seven consecutive days, but with a limited number of people. However, eating out is prohibited in restaurants across the city.

Shanghai, the commercial center of China of 25 million people, plans to lift a painful two-month lockdown from Wednesday, but there is still much confusion over what its exit will look like and how it might be gradual.

Businesses have been told they can resume operations, but most residents have not been told when to leave their closed communities, much public transport remains out of the way and private cars are not allowed to take to the streets without prior permission.

A banker at a foreign bank in Shanghai said his human resources and logistics departments had told personnel management that they were still not sure if people would be able to return to work on Wednesday.

“Nothing is clear and the bank has no idea either,” the banker said, without giving his name.

On Sunday, Shanghai authorities said they would cancel “unreasonable” conditions for companies to resume work from Wednesday, and announced 50 policy measures to support the economy.

Measures include speeding up the issuance and use of local government bonds, requiring banks to provide loans to small and medium-sized businesses, and speeding up approvals for real estate projects. The city will also cut some car purchase taxes to increase car consumption.

There were no specific details about the restrictions that will be lifted on the companies.

“Let’s not talk about resuming work until we are free to go in and out of our compounds,” one social media user commented on a local media article about the latest measures in Shanghai.

‘sensitive’

While there are signs that activity levels this month have recovered somewhat from the dire numbers for April, the strength and sustainability of any recovery depends largely on COVID developments.

Shanghai, Beijing and other cities in China have made great strides in reducing the number of daily cases, but uncertainty remains high as the highly transmissible Omicron variant tends to return.

The zero-COVID strategy is a signature policy of President Xi Jinping, who is widely expected to secure an unprecedented third term in office this fall.

Chinese authorities recently doubled down on the strategy, saying it is saving lives and threatening action against critics who have indicated an exit plan is not imminent.

Economists at Goldman Sachs (NYSE:) said they may discuss China’s no-COVID policy at just one of more than 10 recent meetings with clients in Beijing, “perhaps because of its political sensitivity.”

Avoiding another Shanghai-type lockdown will be critical for China, especially in a major population center and industrial hub, and authorities hope frequent mass testing of people will allow outbreaks early.

China aims to have COVID testing facilities within a 15-minute walk of all of its major cities.

The Chinese government is on track to spend more than $52 billion this year on tests, new medical facilities, monitoring equipment and other anti-COVID measures that analysts say will benefit as many as 3,000 companies.

Shanghai reported less than 100 new cases of COVID-19 on May 29, while Beijing recorded 12. Across the country, China reported 184 new cases, up from 293.