- Two Beijing districts end work-from-home requirement
- Shanghai companies allowed to resume work on Wednesday
- Confusion remains over how Shanghai emerges from lockdown
BEIJING/SHANGHAI, May 30 (Reuters) – Beijing’s streets were busier on Monday as residents of two districts were allowed to return to work, as Shanghai moved closer to lifting its two-month-old COVID-19 lockdown from Wednesday, as the number of infections across China plummeted.
China is alone among major countries in pursuing an uncompromising “zero COVID” policy aimed at eradicating epidemics at all costs, as most of the world tries to coexist with the virus.
China is reporting new cases daily in the hundreds compared to many Western countries which are reporting tens of thousands of new COVID cases daily.
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Harsh COVID restrictions, and in particular the strict lockdown in China’s most populous city, have hit the world’s second-largest economy, disrupting global supply chains and international trade.
But there might be some respite soon.
In the capital Beijing, Fangshan and Shunyi districts have ended work-from-home rules, while public transport has largely resumed in both districts as well as in Chaoyang, the city’s largest.
Libraries, museums, theaters and gymnasiums were allowed to reopen on Sunday, but with limits on the number of people, in districts that have seen no community cases of COVID for seven consecutive days. Yet dining out is banned across the city.
Shanghai, China’s trade hub of 25 million people, plans to finally lift a painful two-month lockdown from Wednesday, but there is still much confusion about what its exit will look like and how. point it could be progressive.
Businesses have been told they can resume operations, but most residents have not been told when they can leave their homes, much public transport remains suspended and no private cars are allowed on the roads without prior authorization.
A banker at a foreign lender in Shanghai said their human resources and logistics departments had told staff that management was still unsure if people could return to work on Wednesday.
“Nothing is clear and the bank has no idea either,” the banker said, declining to be named.
On Sunday, authorities in Shanghai said they would remove “unreasonable” conditions for businesses to resume work from Wednesday and announced 50 policy measures to support the economy. Read more
The measures include accelerating the issuance and use of local government bonds, asking banks to renew loans to small and medium enterprises, and speeding up the approval of real estate projects. The city will also reduce some passenger car purchase taxes to stimulate automobile consumption.
There were no specific details on the restrictions on businesses that would be removed.
“Let’s only talk about resuming work when we are allowed to freely enter and exit our accommodations,” one social media user commented in a local media post about Shanghai’s latest measures.
Although there have been signs that activity levels have recovered somewhat this month from April’s disastrous figures, the strength and durability of any rebound largely depends on how the COVID.
Shanghai, Beijing and other cities in China have made significant progress in reducing the number of daily cases, but uncertainty remains high as the highly transmissible variant of Omicron is likely to make a comeback.
The zero COVID strategy is a flagship policy of President Xi Jinping, who is widely expected to secure an unprecedented third term in office this fall.
Chinese authorities recently doubled down on the strategy, saying it saves lives and threatened to take action against critics suggesting an exit plan was not imminent.
Goldman Sachs economists said they could only discuss China’s zero-COVID policy in one of more than 10 recent meetings with clients in Beijing, “potentially due to its political sensitivity.”
It will be essential for China to avoid another Shanghai-style lockdown, especially in a large population center and industrial hub, and authorities hope that frequent mass testing of people will allow them to detect outbreaks at a early stage.
China aims to have COVID testing facilities within a 15-minute walk of everyone in its major cities.
The Chinese government is on track to spend more than $52 billion this year on testing, new medical facilities, monitoring equipment and other anti-COVID measures, which will benefit as many as 3,000 companies, analysts say. Read more
Shanghai reported less than 100 new COVID cases for May 29, while Beijing recorded 12. Nationwide, China reported 184 new cases, down from 293.
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Reporting by Brenda Goh, Winni Zhou, Casey Hall and Yifan Wang in Shanghai; Ryan Woo in Beijing; and offices in Beijing and Shanghai; Written by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry
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