Spread of COVID-19 outbreak stokes fear of Beijing lockdown

VSChina’s coronavirus outbreak has worsened as rising cases in Beijing have raised concerns about an unprecedented lockdown in the capital, with policymakers racing to avert a Shanghai-style crisis that has already wreaked havoc in the financial center.

Fears that the country’s strict adherence to Covid Zero could further damage the economy drove oil and iron ore stocks lower on Monday. It also sparked a wave of panic buying as Beijing residents – fearing they would be caught off guard if the whole city were to shut down – rushed to stock up after the government announced plans to mass testing and put some areas on lockdown.

The city of more than 20 million people and the country’s political center has cordoned off dozens of residential compounds and asked residents of the eastern district of Chaoyang to get tested three times this week after dozens of infections were discovered in weekend course. Authorities have warned of more cases in the coming days, with Beijing city government spokesman Xu Hejian saying late Friday that the current outbreak was “complex and stealthy” while continuing to grow. committing to take further measures to prevent its spread.

Read more: The Chinese public may be fed up with zero-COVID

The surge comes as Shanghai reported a record number of deaths and imposed stricter rules to try to stamp out infections. The twin outbreaks in two of China’s most important cities have become an unprecedented test for President Xi Jinping, who is set to seek a third five-year term at a Communist Party congress later this year.

China has repeatedly championed Covid Zero, saying the policy saves lives and keeps the economy going, even as the strategy increasingly dims the country’s growth prospects and threatens to disrupt global supply chains. .

Chinese stocks tumbled and the onshore yuan fell to its lowest level in a year. Iron ore futures fell more than 11%, while oil fell around 3% to trade below $100 a barrel.

Beijing has already locked down some residential compounds around the Chaoyang district – home to some 3.5 million people, including many expats, the central business district and most foreign embassies. It has designated 14 small communities as “sealed” and another 14 as “controlled” areas with varying levels of movement restrictions.

Local authorities will test people who live or work in Chaoyang on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It’s everyone from white-collar workers to young children who need a negative result to go to kindergarten.

Read more: China’s growing confrontation with COVID-19

Long lines are already snaking around apartment complexes as residents wait for tests. Online and brick-and-mortar grocery stores sold fresh food, kitchen essentials, and other basics like masks and sanitizers.

Residents of the capital are worried about a repeat of the crisis that has plagued Shanghai for nearly a month and have seen people unable to reliably access food or medical care. Beijing authorities are bolstering supplies by delivering fresh vegetables to parts of Chaoyang that have reported positive cases. Meituan and other grocery delivery apps have also increased manpower by up to 70% to help sort growing orders and deliver them to people’s doorsteps the same day, local media reported.

In Shanghai, the misery continues, with authorities stepping up containment efforts as cases in the community continue to emerge despite mass isolation, testing and shutdowns. Over the weekend, fencing was put up in some neighborhoods to seal off buildings where positive cases were found, sparking renewed frustration among residents already stuck inside their homes for weeks.

The financial hub remains the epicenter of China’s worst outbreak since Wuhan more than two years ago. It reported 51 deaths on Sunday, mostly elderly people, bringing the death toll in the current wave to 138. There are 196 patients in serious condition and 23 in critical condition.

Read more: In China, COVID-19 separates children from parents

China has sent a total of nine medical teams to step up treatment of severe cases at eight designated hospitals in Shanghai, Xinhua reported on Sunday. The teams are made up of more than 360 experts with intensive care experience.

Shanghai reported 19,455 new cases on Sunday. While the number of daily infections is on a general downward trend, the government has still not achieved its goal of eliminating the spread in communities.

With help from Jessica Sui, Dong Lyu, Ishika Mookerjee, Jing Li, Gao Yuan, Tongjian Dong and Ocean Hou

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