Covid-19 cases in China are reaching record highs, forcing authorities to lock down large swaths of the country again.
The world’s second-largest economy reported nearly 28,000 new Covid cases on Tuesday, with outbreaks in the Chinese capital, southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou and southwestern metropolis of Chongqing continuing to grow.
Chinese authorities in Beijing have closed most non-essential businesses in the city’s largest district, Chaoyang, which has a population of 3.4 million, and closed restaurants and other entertainment venues in much of it. of the city, while telling residents to work from home.
“China is experiencing an all-time high in lockdowns,” said Ting Lu, chief China economist at Nomura. “It’s even a little worse than during the [spring] Shanghai lockdown because so many cities are partially lockdown. »
The bank estimates that Covid restrictions have hit areas responsible for a fifth of China’s gross domestic product.
The Shanghai lockdowns slowed economic growth in the second quarter to a 0.4% rise from a year earlier. China’s network of Covid restrictions continued to hurt the economy, with retail sales down 0.5% in October and industrial production subdued.
The worsening outbreak and increasingly stringent nationwide measures come despite Beijing’s demands less than two weeks ago to ease Covid controls, sparking a market rally for Chinese stocks.
Rising cases in China have since weighed on market sentiment as traders, who once hoped for an economic boost from reopening, are increasingly concerned about intensifying disruption from lockdowns. .
China’s CSI 300 index of stocks listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen was flat on Tuesday and has fallen more than 2.5% since last week’s spike in reopening optimism. The benchmark is down about a quarter since the start of the year.
Beijing’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention said the capital was facing the “most complex and difficult” environment since the start of the pandemic, while the city’s top official, the secretary of the communist party Yin Li, reaffirmed the country’s zero-Covid policy on Monday.
“We must resolutely win the pandemic prevention and control war, win the blockade battle and the Covid annihilation battle,” Yin said in remarks carried by state media.
The rise in cases has necessitated the quarantine of a growing number of apartment buildings in Beijing, putting local authorities and residents under pressure. An official from Shilipu, a community in the capital, said he and nine colleagues were struggling to serve more than 7,000 households under home quarantine.
“Our capacity has been stretched,” he said.
In Chongqing, another pandemic hotspot, the arrival on Monday of Sun Chunlan, a deputy prime minister known for her draconian approach to the fight against the pandemic, prompted widespread panic buying among residents, concerned about the possibility of a difficult Shanghai-style lockdown.
“Although I’ve stored 10 days’ worth of food in my refrigerator, I still don’t feel safe,” said Dave Yin, a business owner in the southwest metropolis. “I bought 5 kg of pork and six packets of vegetables just in case.”
The city is building makeshift hospitals to provide an additional 43,063 beds in addition to the existing 17,000 beds in three hospitals.
Guangzhou, the site of another severe outbreak, continued to report high numbers of cases, registering 8,210 new infections on Monday. The city has tried to control the spread of the virus without a citywide lockdown, but on Monday it placed its largest district, Baiyun, with a population of 3.8 million, into a lockdown of five days.
The move extended the lockdown to the southern district of Haizhu, which is home to many of the city’s garment factories and has already extended its own lockdown several times.
Additional reporting by Nian Liu in Beijing