Shanghai on Friday announced its first new COVID-19 case outside the quarantine area in five days and imposed strict sanctions on two districts, but did not signal any change in the planned completion of the June 1 extended city-wide lockdown.
With 25 million commercial centers in the seventh week of the lockdown, slowly allowing more people to leave their homes in recent days, many residential compound supermarkets are issuing passes for short walks or trips.
But as a sign of the challenges posed by China’s “zero covid” policy – disagreeing with the restoration of normal life in the rest of the world – Shanghai’s Qingguo authorities said Friday it had sealed and disinfected several sites and tested more than 250,000. Residents after discovering three incidents.
Another district, Hanku, has ordered all shops to close on Friday afternoon and residents to stay home until at least Sunday because it plans to run a mass test. It was not immediately clear why this was done.
“Our district will conduct three consecutive PCR tests for everyone,” authorities in Hong Kong, home to more than 750,000 people, said in their official WeChat account.
“During this screening, all supermarkets, street side shops must stop activities, not everyone should leave their homes.”
Earlier Friday, other Shanghai officials said Shanghai was slowly moving to reopen, due to the opening of suburban parks from Sunday. Other parks may open from June if they meet certain conditions, but leisure facilities at the parks will remain closed.
A plan to reopen four metro lines from Sunday is also on track, the city government said.
Beijing, the capital of China’s 22 million people, has struggled to end an outbreak since the end of April, despite significant restrictions on the movement, with many residents working from home and various shops and locations closed.
But instead of exploding like an outbreak in Shanghai, its daily caseload remains at dozens. Beijing on May 19 reported 62 new covid infections, up from 55 a day earlier.
In Chawang, the capital’s largest district, a football pitch popular with children was closed with chains, covered with barbed wire coils and marked “temporarily closed during the epidemic.”
Nearby, the young couple briefly sat together by a canal on a private Valentine’s Day in China, before security guards approached with loudspeakers reminding people not to gather.
On Friday, Shanghai reported a broad economic downturn in April, with many factories closed and customers stranded at home. The city’s industrial production has shrunk by 61.5% compared to last year, the biggest monthly decline since 2011.
According to Reuters, retail sales fell 48.3%, significantly higher than the 11.1% drop nationally, and property sales fell 88% by floor area.
The European Chamber of Commerce in China warned this week that many companies and individuals are “seriously considering their China presence”, although the situation in Shanghai and China has improved significantly this month.
Analysts at Gavekal Dragonomics estimate that less than 5% of Chinese cities are now reporting infections, down from a quarter in late March.
Many cities have established municipal border controls, conducting frequent mass checks and monitoring and isolating new infections through the construction of lockdowns.
“This new norm will allow production supply chains to gradually resume normal operations, but will continue to weigh on usage, the service sector and small businesses,” Gavekal analysts wrote in a note.
Following the contraction in April, there are signs that the economy is responding to loose controls in May.
Daily container throughput at the port of Shanghai has recovered to almost last year’s level, while air cargo throughput and freight vehicles bounced about two-thirds of the 2021 volume.
Although still 21% lower than last year, retail car sales in the first half of May jumped 27% from the same period in April, the data shows.
The Chinese yuan shows a set for its biggest weekly gain in a year, tearing up six consecutive weeks of losses. The stock has also risen.
Policymakers have promised more fiscal and monetary stimulus to help the economy.
China lowered its benchmark reference rate for mortgages by a larger margin than expected in its May fixing on Friday, the second decline this year as the government aims to revive demand for loans.
Property and related industries, such as construction, accounted for more than a quarter of the economy and were in recession even before the lockdown. A campaign by the authorities to reduce high debt turned into a liquidity crisis for some major developers last year, with bond defaulters and projects stalled, destabilizing global financial markets.
Jing Zhaopeng, a senior China strategist at ANZ, predicts simplification, saying: “Policymakers have reached a consensus on whether the property sector needs to be revived.”
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)