China’s coronavirus outbreak worsened as rising cases in Beijing sparked jitters about an unprecedented lockdown of the capital, with policy makers racing to avert a Shanghai-style crisis that’s already wrought havoc on the financial hub.
Worries that the country’s strict adherence to Covid Zero will further damage the economy dragged down stocks to oil and iron ore on Monday. It’s also sparked a bout of panic buying as Beijing residents — fearful of being caught unprepared in the event of a citywide shutdown– rushed to stock up on supplies after the government announced mass testing plans and put some areas under lockdown.
The city of more than 20 million people and the country’s political center has sealed off dozens of residential compounds and told inhabitants of the eastern district of Chaoyang to be tested three times this week after dozens of infections were found over the weekend. Officials have warned of more cases in coming days, with Beijing city government spokesman Xu Hejian saying late on Friday that the current outbreak is “complex and stealthy” while vowing to take further measures to prevent its spread.
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As Shanghai experienced a record high number of death, the city enacted stricter measures to eradicate infections. The twin outbreaks in two of China’s most significant cities has become an unprecedented test for President Xi Jinping, who is likely to seek a third five-year term during a Communist Party congress later this year.
China has repeatedly defended Covid Zero, saying the policy saves lives and keeps the economy going, even as the strategy increasingly darkens the country’s growth outlook and threatens to disrupt global supply chains.
Many people wait in line in Beijing to get tested for Covid-19 on April 25, 2022.
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Chinese stock markets plunged, and the onshore Yuan was at its lowest level in over a year. Iron ore futures fell more than 11% while oil prices dropped about 33% to $100 per barrel.
Beijing has already locked down some residential compounds around the Chaoyang district — home to some 3.5 million people, including many expats, the central business district and most foreign embassies. It has designated 14 smaller communities as “sealed” and another 14 as “controlled” areas with different levels of movement restrictions.
Chaoyang local authorities will perform random drug tests on Chaoyang citizens who reside or work there Monday through Friday. That’s everyone from white collar workers to young children who need a negative result to attend kindergarten.
Continue reading: China’s Deepening Showdown With COVID-19
Residents are lining up in long lines to wait for their results. Both brick-and-mortar and online grocery stores are out of food staples, fresh foods and essentials like antiseptic and masks.
Residents in the capital are worried about a repeat of the crisis that’s snarled Shanghai for almost a month and seen people unable to reliably access food or medical care. Beijing authorities have increased supplies and are delivering fresh vegetables in Chaoyang to areas that reported positive cases. Meituan and other grocery delivery apps have also increased manpower by as much as 70% to help sort mounting orders and race to deliver them to people’s doorsteps on the same day, local media reported.
A supermarket in Beijing sells food and household items on April 25, 2022.
NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images
Shanghai continues to be in misery with authorities intensifying containment efforts. Despite mass isolation, testing, and lockdowns, cases continue to appear. Some neighborhoods saw fences installed to close down buildings with positive cases. This angered residents who had been trapped in their homes for several weeks.
The financial hub remains the epicenter of China’s worst outbreak since Wuhan more than two years ago. There were 51 people killed on Sunday. Most of them elderly. This brought the death toll in the current wave up to 138. There are 196 patients who are in grave condition and 23 that are in critical condition.
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China dispatched nine medical teams, according to Xinhua on Sunday. They were sent to Shanghai to speed up the treatment of serious cases. These teams include more than 360 specialists with extensive care experience.
On Sunday, Shanghai saw 19,455 cases of new infections. While daily infection numbers are on a broadly downward trend, the government still hasn’t reached its goal of eliminating spread in communities.
—Assisting Jessica Sui and Dong Lyu. Ishika Mokerjee. Jing Li. Gao Yuan. Tongjian Dong. Ocean Hou.
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