- Beijing has closed more gyms, malls and cinemas to contain the outbreak
- There are still dozens of new cases of Corona virus in the capital
- China intensifies its political support for the meeting of the Political Bureau of the Economy
BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – The Chinese capital, Beijing, shut down more businesses and apartment complexes on Friday as authorities ramped up contact tracing to contain the outbreak of COVID-19, while discontent over the month-long shutdown grew in Shanghai.
In the financial center, fenced-in people protested the lockdown and difficulties getting supplies by knocking on pots and pans in the evening, according to a Reuters witness and residents.
A video circulated on social media, whose authenticity could not be immediately verified, showed a woman warning people over a loud megaphone not to do so, saying that such gestures are encouraged by “strangers”.
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The Shanghai government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In Beijing, authorities were in a race against time to detect COVID cases and isolate those around them.
A sign outside an apartment complex reads “Entry only. No exit.”
Polish resident Joanna Sklarska, 51, was sent to a quarantine hotel as a close contact, but she refused to share the room, which has only one bed, with her neighbour.
She was sent home, where authorities installed an alarm on the front door. Then she was called back to the hotel, where she now has her own room.
Nothing makes sense here,” the English counselor said over the phone.
At a regular news conference on Friday, Chinese health officials did not respond to questions about whether Beijing would come under lockdown or what circumstances might prompt such measures.
The severe restrictions in China seemed surreal in many parts of the world as people chose to live with the virus.
Repeated signs of frustration among citizens will be uncomfortable for China’s ruling Communist Party, especially since President Xi Jinping is widely expected to secure a third term in office this fall.
Nomura estimates that 46 cities are currently in full or partial lockdown, affecting 343 million people. Société Générale estimates that provinces with significant mobility restrictions account for 80% of China’s economic output.
New cases of the novel coronavirus in Beijing are still in the dozens, officials said Friday, a far cry from the numbers in Shanghai.
In Beijing’s Chaoyang District, which was the first to undergo mass testing this week, the last of three rounds of testing began Friday among its 3.5 million residents. Most other regions are scheduled to hold the third round of testing on Saturday.
More apartment complexes were closed, preventing residents from leaving, and some spas, KTVs, gyms, movie theaters, libraries and at least two malls closed on Friday.
People who had recently visited places in areas declared “at risk” by authorities received text messages telling them to stay in their places until they received their test results.
“Hello fellow citizens! I recently visited a beef and braised chicken noodle shop in Guanghui Li community,” one of the texts wrote. “Please inform your pool or hotel immediately, stay put and wait for the DNA test notification.”
“If you violate the above requirements and cause the epidemic to spread, you will be held legally responsible.”
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Details were scarce, but markets reacted with a shift in messaging away from a single focus on COVID, analysts say.
“The goal now is to strike a balance between outbreak containment and economic growth,” said Chui Zhang, president of Pinpoint Asset Management, who expects the Chinese economy to contract in the second quarter.
“This suggests that the government may adjust its ‘zero tolerance’ policy to allow for some flexibility.”
Chinese authorities say the fight against COVID is vital to saving lives.
“The battle against the Covid epidemic is a war, a war of resistance, a people’s war,” said Liang Wanyan, head of the COVID-19 response committee of the National Health Commission.
In Shanghai, authorities said more people were gradually being allowed in principle to leave their homes recently. More than 12 million, nearly half of the population, are now in this category. Read more
However, many cannot leave their complexes, while those with few places to go such as shops and other places are closed. One of the 52,000 police mobilized for lockdown often asks them to go home.
Many residents grumbled about the police’s inflexibility, which sometimes does not take into account health emergencies or other individual circumstances.
“Some police personnel are … emotional or mechanical,” Xu Qing, head of the municipal public security bureau, told reporters, acknowledging their “deficiencies.”
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The report was submitted by Martin Quinn Pollard, Eduardo Baptista, David Stanway, Brenda Goh, Tony Munro, Roxanne Liu, Alby Zhang, Wang Yifan, and the Beijing and Shanghai offices; Written by Marius Zacharia. Editing by Lincoln Fest and Simon Cameron More
Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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