COVID restrictions tighten in Beijing, while infections rise, forcing communities to lock down.
Jade Gao | AFP | Getty Images
BEIJING – China’s capital city has almost come to a standstill as Covid containment spreads.
More and more apartment compounds in Beijing on Friday refused to let residents move out, at least for a few days. This is on top of a growing number of restrictions on business activity, which have forced gyms to close and restaurants to stop serving food.
“This morning most of our 30+ employees reported that their communities have gone into 7 days of lockdown,” said James Zimmerman, Partner in the Beijing office of Perkins Coie. said on Twitter on Friday, He said that a day earlier the firm had to ask all its employees to work from home.
It was not clear how many people were affected at the city level, and to what extent stay-at-home measures were being implemented. Beijing has a population of about 22 million.
“You constantly hear about someone going into lockdown and you constantly have the feeling that you are going to be next,” Georg Wuttke, president of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China, said on Friday. He estimated that about 40% of the people in his office area were laid off.
The Beijing city government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Municipal officials have not announced a city-wide lockdown, and have warned that it is in a “critical” period to contain the virus.
There has been an increase in local infections despite a gradual tightening of COVID measures over the past two weeks. The city of Beijing reported more than 1,800 Covid infections on Thursday, bringing the total for the month to over 10,000.
Other parts of mainland China have reported similar increases in infections – a nationwide new daily high of more than 32,000 for Thursday.
The central government this month sent an encouraging signal to investors about future reopening by reducing the quarantine time, among other changes. But the zero-covid policy itself did not change.
“In the beginning when [new measures] Came out, we felt something positive. But now, we are finding that interpretations vary widely,” said Jennifer Birdsong, a Chengdu-based board member of the EU Chamber’s Southwest China chapter. “There is a lot of variation in what can be interpreted as a necessary lockdown. “
“Right now, we’re also in a situation where bars, restaurants and gyms, all [were] Closed last night,” he said, adding that business owners are frustrated by the lack of notice.
She said the restrictions have meant some workers have had to sleep in factories, only to find they have not been able to get food.
dip in road traffic
Statistics show that people are moving less voluntarily or involuntarily in the Covid affected areas.
Baidu traffic data showed Beijing has dropped from being the most congested city in all of China to 74th place.
Subway ridership in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing has plunged nearly 99% from a year ago, according to a Friday report from Goldman Sachs.
The report said that in the southern city of Guangzhou, there has been a decline of about 65% compared to the previous year.
Guangzhou has been the capital of the export-heavy province of Guangdong. Most affected by this month’s Covid wave. Local officials said on Thursday that some frustrated residents had even broken lockdown barriers, according to state media.
The lockdown has been imposed only in some parts of the city. But businesses are concerned and are working overtime to ensure they can fulfill their orders without disruption, said Claus Zenkel, vice president of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China and chairman of its South China chapter.
One company in the food industry had to shut down for about a week, and hundreds of tons of unspecified ingredients were lost, he said.
Local business representatives said EU chamber members in Shanghai were holding online meetings and taking other preventive measures, while restaurants and gyms in the northern city of Shenyang had to close again.
Overall, the EU Chamber noted on Friday the need to place greater emphasis on the vaccination of local populations. China lags behind the US and Singapore in vaccination rates for senior citizens.
Chinese authorities have focused on using more frequent virus testing and more targeted measures in an effort to contain the COVID outbreak while allowing some business activity in recent months.
“We will keep moving the papers … to [Chinese] administration, because I think they’re doing a self-searching how to deal with this situation,” Wutke said. “China has a zero-tolerance policy and it becomes difficult to dig ourselves out of this corner.”