On Monday, Beijing’s streets were busier as people in two districts were permitted to return to work, and Shanghai drew closer to lifting its two-month-old COVID-19 quarantine on Wednesday, as the number of illnesses across China fell.
While the rest of the world tries to coexist with the virus, China is the only major country to pursue an uncompromising “zero COVID” strategy aimed at eradicating breakouts at any cost.
China reports hundreds of new COVID instances per day, but several Western countries record tens of thousands of new COVID cases every day.
The harsh COVID restrictions, particularly the tightening of controls in China’s most populated metropolis, have wreaked havoc on the world’s second-largest economy, disrupting global supply chains and international trade.
However, there may be some relief shortly.
The districts of Fangshan and Shunyi in Beijing’s capital lifted work-from-home restrictions, and public transportation was mostly restored in the two districts, as well as in Chaoyang, the city’s largest metropolis.
Libraries, museums, theaters, and gyms in districts where there have been no community COVID cases for seven days were allowed to reopen on Sunday, however with restrictions on the amount of individuals allowed in. Despite this, eating in restaurants is prohibited throughout the city.
Shanghai, China’s 25-million-strong economic metropolis, prepares to end a painful two-month lockdown on Wednesday, but there is still significant uncertainty about how the city will emerge and how gradual it will be.
Businesses have been assured they can resume operations, but most people have not been notified when they will be able to leave their housing compounds, much public transportation has been suspended, and no private automobiles are allowed on the roadways without prior consent.
Human resource and logistics departments at a foreign bank in Shanghai warned employees that management was still unsure whether they could return to work on Wednesday, according to a banker.
“Nothing is clear, and the bank has no idea,” claimed the banker, who did not want to be identified.
Shanghai authorities unveiled 50 policy steps to help the economy on Sunday, saying they will eliminate “unreasonable” obstacles for enterprises to start work on Wednesday.
Accelerating the issue and usage of local government bonds, as well as requesting banks to renew loans to small and medium-sized businesses and expediting the clearance of real estate projects, are among the initiatives. To encourage car ownership, the city will lower some passenger car purchase taxes.
There were no specifics regarding which commercial restrictions would be lifted.
“Let’s speak about resuming work once we’re permitted to freely travel in and out of our housing compounds,” one social media user said in response to a local news story about the latest Shanghai measures.
While there is evidence that activity levels have rebounded considerably from April’s lows, the strength and sustainability of any recovery is primarily dependent on COVID developments.
Shanghai, Beijing, and other Chinese cities have made substantial headway in reducing daily caseloads, but there is still a lot of uncertainty because the highly transmissible Omicron variety is prone to resurfacing.
President Xi Jinping’s zero COVID strategy is a trademark program of his, who is largely anticipated to win a record-breaking third term in office this autumn.
Chinese authorities have recently reaffirmed their commitment to the approach, claiming that it is saving lives and threatening to take action against opponents who claim that an evacuation plan is not imminent.
“Potentially because to its political sensitivity,” Goldman Sachs analysts claimed they could only address China’s zero COVID policy in one of more than ten recent meetings with clients in Beijing.
It will be critical for China to avoid a repeat of the Shanghai shutdown, especially in a major population center and industrial hub, and authorities are hopeful that periodic mass testing of people would allow them to spot breakouts early.
In China’s major cities, COVID testing facilities are expected to be within 15 minutes walk of everyone.
Analysts estimate that the Chinese government will spend more than $52 billion this year on testing, new medical facilities, monitoring equipment, and other anti-COVID efforts, benefiting as many as 3,000 businesses.
For the month of May, Shanghai reported fewer than 100 new COVID instances, while Beijing reported 12. China recorded 184 new cases nationwide, down from 293.