China’s capital Beijing is fighting against Covid with several lockdowns of apartments

China’s capital Beijing is fighting against Covid with several lockdowns of apartments

China’s capital Beijing is fighting against Covid with several lockdowns of apartments

Covid restrictions have been tightened in Beijing as infections continue to rise, prompting the lockdown of communities.

Jade Gao | Afp | Getty Images

BEIJING – China’s capital comes to a near standstill as Covid checks spread.

More and more apartment complexes in Beijing on Friday banned residents from traveling for at least a few days. It comes on top of a growing number of bans on business activity, which have forced gyms to close and restaurants to halt in-store service.

“This morning, most of our 30+ employees reported that their communities went into a 7-day lockdown,” James Zimmerman, partner in the Beijing office of Perkins Coie, said on Twitter Friday. He said a day earlier that the company had to tell all its employees to work from home.

It was not clear how many people were affected at city level, and to what extent stay-at-home measures were enforced. Beijing has a population of around 22 million.

“You keep hearing about someone going into lockdown, and you have a constant feeling that you’re going to be next,” Joerg Wuttke, president of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China, said on Friday. He estimated that about 40% of the people in his office area were locked out.

The Beijing city government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Municipal authorities have not announced a city-wide lockdown, warning that it is in a “critical” period to control the virus.

China censors fresh online criticism of zero-Covid measures

Local infections have increased despite the gradual tightening of Covid measures over the past two weeks. Beijing city reported more than 1,800 Covid infections for Thursday, bringing the total for the month to well over 10,000.

Other parts of mainland China have reported similar increases in infections – to a nationwide new daily high of more than 32,000 for Thursday.

The central government this month sent an encouraging signal to investors about future reopening by cutting quarantine times, among other things. But the zero-Covid policy itself did not change.

“Basically when [new measures] came out, we felt a little positive. But now we find that the interpretation varies a lot,” said Jennifer Birdsong, a Chengdu-based member of the EU Chamber’s Southwest China Chapter Board. “There is a lot of variation in what can be interpreted as a necessary lockdown.”

“Right now we are also in a situation where bars, restaurants and gyms, all together [were] closed last night,” she said, adding that business owners are frustrated by the lack of notice.

She said the restrictions mean some workers have had to sleep in factories, only to find they are unable to get food delivered.

Plunge into road traffic

Data shows that people in Covid-affected areas move less, willingly or unwillingly.

Baidu traffic data showed that Beijing has fallen from being the most congested city in all of China to 74th place.

Subway ridership in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing plunged nearly 99% from a year ago, according to a Goldman Sachs report Friday.

That in the southern city of Guangzhou fell by about 65% from last year, the report said.

Guangzhou, the capital of the export-heavy province of Guangdong, has been hardest hit by this month’s Covid wave. Some frustrated residents have even broken through locking barriers, local officials said Thursday, according to state media.

Only parts of the city have locked down. But companies are worried and are working overtime to ensure they can fulfill their orders without interruption, said Klaus Zenkel, vice president of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China and chairman of the South China branch.

He said one company in the food industry had to shut down for about a week, losing hundreds of tons of unspecified material.

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Members of the EU Chamber in Shanghai are moving meetings online and taking other precautionary measures, while restaurants and gyms in the northern city of Shenyang have had to close, local business representatives said.

Overall, the EU Chamber noted on Friday a need for greater emphasis on vaccination of the local population. China lags behind the US and Singapore in vaccination rates for seniors.

Chinese authorities have in recent months focused on using frequent virus testing and more targeted measures in an attempt to control Covid outbreaks while allowing some business activity.

“We will continue to push papers … to [Chinese] administration, because I think they are soul-searching how to handle this situation,” Wuttke said. “China has a zero-tolerance policy and is finding it difficult to get out of this corner.”

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