China’s Covid infections drop for the first time in more than a week

The Chinese capital, Beijing, is one of the hardest hit by the latest wave of Covid. Pictured is a health worker outside a locked apartment complex on November 27, 2022.

Kevin Frayer | Getty Images News | Getty Images

BEIJING — Mainland China on Monday reported the first drop in daily Covid infections in more than a week.

The country said local, mostly asymptomatic infections stood at 38,421, down from a record 40,052 reported on Sunday, according to CNBC’s calculations of Wind Information data.

The last time the daily case count fell from the previous day was Nov. 19, the data showed.

Local infections have plummeted in Guangdong and Chongqing, two of the regions hardest hit by the latest wave of Covid. No new deaths were reported.

But the capital, Beijing, saw infections rise on Monday from the previous day, as did Shanghai, albeit on a much smaller scale. Shanghai Disneyland said it would suspend operations from Tuesday, after a brief reopening on Friday. Universal Beijing Resort remains open.

There were no indications of further protests on Monday. Over the weekend, students and groups of people across China staged public demonstrations to protest the country’s strict zero-Covid policy.

Security has tightened in areas where protesters had gathered in Beijing and Shanghai, according to social media. Some reports on social networks said police were checking Shanghai residents’ phones for foreign apps that are inaccessible on the mainland without a VPN.

China’s official news broadcast on Monday did not mention the unrest, but did include a segment calling for unity around the current Covid measures. The show also highlighted how the government was maintaining health services and the delivery of daily necessities to people in lockdown.

The purpose of the measures is to minimize the impact of Covid on the economy and society, claimed an editorial Tuesday in People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China. The article firmly ruled out the idea of ​​relaxing controls.

Why China shows no signs of backing down from its strategy

Tight Covid controls this year have weighed heavily on business activity and economic growth in China. In the third quarter, national GDP rose 3% year-on-year, well below the official target of around 5.5% set in March.

On Monday, 25.1% of China’s GDP was negatively affected by Covid controls, according to a Nomura model. That’s above the previous peak of 21.2% recorded in April during the Shanghai lockdown.

“The rapid increase in public dissatisfaction with the closures over the past weekend could further cloud the road to reopening,” Nomura analysts said.

Policy adjustments loosen and tighten

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City officials later banned the use of hard materials to block emergency exits, apartment building doors and entrances to complexes, and noted that short-term closures should not exceed 24 hours.

They also said exit channels for treatment should remain free. Previously, anecdotes on social media described how people were denied access to medical care due to supposed Covid checks.

Covid measures and their implementation have varied locally, particularly given the dispersed nature of outbreaks.

Starting Tuesday, the city of Shanghai tightened restrictions on restaurants, malls and other commercial places. Anyone wishing to enter must now show a negative virus test within the last 48 hours, up from 72 hours previously.

And in the wake of the protests, at least Tsinghua University encouraged students to return home early for the Lunar New Year winter vacation – more than a month early.

– CNBC’s Eunice Yoon contributed to this report.

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