Beijing closes parks and museums as China’s COVID cases surge

BEIJING, Nov. 22 (Reuters) – Beijing closed parks, malls and museums on Tuesday, while more Chinese cities resumed mass testing for COVID-19 as China battles a surge in cases, deepening concerns about its economy and hopes of one fast post dampens – Corona reopening.

China reported 28,127 new local cases nationwide Monday, approaching its daily peak from April, with infections in the southern city of Guangzhou and southwestern municipality of Chongqing accounting for about half of the total.

In the capital Beijing, cases are hitting new highs every day, prompting the city government to urge more residents to stay.

There were two new deaths attributed by health officials to COVID-19, compared with three over the weekend, the first in China since May.

The latest wave tests recent adjustments China has made to its zero-COVID policy, which urges authorities to be more selective in their tough measures and stay away from the widespread lockdowns and tests that are strangling the economy and frustrating residents to have.

The municipality of Tianjin, near Beijing, was the latest to order citywide testing on Tuesday, after Shijiazhuang made a similar announcement on Sunday.

Even with the adjusted guidelines, China remains a global outlier with its tough COVID restrictions, including borders that remain all but closed almost three years into the pandemic.

Tightening measures in Beijing and other cities, even as China seeks to avoid citywide lockdowns like the one that crippled Shanghai this year, have reignited investor concerns about the economy and caused global equity markets to and oil prices have slipped overnight.

Nomura analysts said on Tuesday their internal index estimated that places accounting for about 19.9% โ€‹โ€‹of China’s total gross domestic product were in some form of lockdown or restricted, up from 15.6% last Monday and not far from the peak of the index in April. during lockdown in Shanghai.

LOCATED LOCKDOWNS

The Chinese capital on Monday warned it was facing the toughest test of the COVID-19 pandemic and tightened rules for entering the city, requiring arrivals from other parts of China to undergo three days of COVID testing before leaving allowed to leave their accommodation.

Scores of Beijing residents have seen their buildings locked down, though these restrictions often only last a few days.

Some city residents said they experienced delays in food deliveries due to large volumes.

Many museums were closed and venues like Happy Valley amusement park and the city’s massive Chaoyang Park, a popular spot for runners and picnickers, said Tuesday they were closing because of the outbreak. Beijing reported 1,438 new local cases, up from 962 on Sunday.

The central city of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected, issued a notice on Tuesday urging its residents to travel only between home and work.

Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, who has spearheaded China’s zero-COVID policy, visited Chongqing Monday and urged local authorities to comply with measures and bring the outbreak under control, the city government said.

NOT THAT PINK

Investors had hoped that China’s tighter enforcement of zero-COVID curbs could herald more significant easing, but many analysts warn against being overly optimistic.

Many businesses, especially those that are customer-facing, also fear they might not survive into next year as customers continue to hold on to their cash.

China argues that President Xi Jinping’s signature zero-COVID policy saves lives and is necessary to prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed.

Many experts warn that a full reopening will require a massive vaccination booster effort and a change in messaging in a country where the disease remains widely feared. Authorities say they plan to build more hospital capacity and fever clinics to screen patients and are formulating a vaccination campaign.

“The true picture may not be as rosy as it seems,” Nomura analysts wrote, saying they only expected the reopening to accelerate after March next year when the reshuffle of China’s top leadership is complete.

“The reopening could go back and forth as policymakers may relent after observing a rapid increase in cases and social disruption. Therefore, local officials may be even more reluctant to take the first steps when trying to gauge Beijing’s true intentions,” Nomura wrote.

Reporting by the newsrooms in Beijing and Shanghai; writing by Brenda Goh; Edited by Tony Munroe, Miral Fahmy and Gerry Doyle

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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