(Corrects attribution in last two paragraphs to Oxford Economics, not Capital Economics)
Three deaths over the weekend in Beijing, the first since May
Guangzhou orders five-day lockdown of its Baiyun district
China reported 26,824 new local cases nationwide
BEIJING, Nov 21 (Reuters) – Students at schools in several districts in Beijing buckled down to online classes on Monday after authorities called on residents of some of its hardest-hit areas to stay at home, as the COVID cases in the Chinese capital and nationwide have increased.
China is battling multiple outbreaks of COVID-19, from Zhengzhou in central Henan province to Chongqing in the southwest, and reported 26,824 new local cases on Sunday, approaching peaks in April. It also recorded two deaths in Beijing, compared to a Saturday, the first in China since the end of May.
Guangzhou, a southern city of nearly 19 million battling the biggest of China’s recent outbreaks, has ordered a five-day lockdown for its most populous Baiyun district. It also suspended restaurant services and closed nightclubs and theaters in Tianhe, home to the city’s main business district.
Asian stock markets and oil prices fell on Monday as investors worried about the economic fallout from China’s escalating COVID situation, with risk aversion benefiting bonds and the dollar.
The latest wave is testing China’s resolve to stick to the adjustments it has made to its zero-COVID policy, which calls on cities to be more targeted in their crackdowns and move away from lockdowns and restrictions. catch-all tests that have strangled the economy and frustrated residents.
Several Chinese cities began scaling back routine community testing for COVID-19 last week, including the northern city of Shijiazhuang, which has been the subject of fervent speculation that it could be a test bed for COVID-19. relaxation of policies. This has raised concerns among some residents.
But late Sunday, Shijiazhuang announced it would carry out mass testing in six of its eight districts over the next five days after daily new local cases reached 641. It also encouraged residents to shop online and ordered some schools to suspend in-person instruction.
“They lasted for a week,” said a popular comment on Weibo on the sidewalks of Shijiazhuang, which was among the most viewed topics on the social media platform.
The capital Beijing reported 962 new infections, down from 621 the day before. Its sprawling Chaoyang district, home to 3.5 million people, has urged residents to stay at home as school goes online. Some schools in Haidian, Dongcheng and Xicheng have also halted in-person instruction.
China’s recent efforts to further target its COVID-19 restrictions have raised investor hopes for more meaningful easing even as China faces its first winter battling the highly transmissible variant of Omicron.
However, many analysts expect such a change to begin only in March or April, with the government claiming President Xi Jinping’s zero COVID policy is saving lives.
Experts warn that fully reopening requires a massive vaccination booster effort and a change in messaging in a country where the disease remains widely feared.
Oxford Economics wrote in a Monday note that it only expects a zero-COVID exit in the second half of 2023.
“From an epidemiological and political point of view, we don’t think the country is ready to open up yet,” he said. (Reporting by Shanghai and Beijing newsrooms; Writing by Brenda Goh; Editing by Tony Munroe and Lincoln Feast.)