Covid restrictions have tightened in Beijing as infections continue to rise, leading to communities being locked down.
Jade Gao | AFP | Getty Images
BEIJING — China’s capital is nearly grinding to a halt as Covid controls spread.
More and more residential complexes in Beijing banned residents from leaving the country for at least a few days on Friday. Add to this a growing number of business bans that have forced gyms to close and restaurants to halt in-store dining.
“This morning most of our 30+ employees reported their communities went into a 7 day lockdown,” said James Zimmerman, partner in Perkins Coie’s Beijing office. said on Twitter on Friday. He said a day earlier the company had to tell all employees to work from home.
It was not clear how many people were affected at the city level and to what extent stay-at-home measures were being enforced. Beijing has about 22 million inhabitants.
“You keep hearing that someone is going into lockdown and you have the constant feeling that you will be next,” Jörg Wuttke, President of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China, said on Friday. He estimated that around 40% of the people in his office area were locked away.
The Beijing municipal government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Local authorities have not announced a citywide lockdown, warning it is a “critical” time for fighting the virus.
Local infections have risen sharply in the last two weeks despite the gradual tightening of Covid measures. The city of Beijing 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 spikes 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 a future reopening, including by reducing quarantine periods. But the zero Covid policy itself hasn’t changed.
“Initially when they [new measures] came out, we felt reasonably positive. But now we find that the interpretation is very different,” said Jennifer Birdsong, a member of the Southwest China Chapter Board of the EU chamber in Chengdu. “There are big differences in what can be interpreted as a necessary lockdown.”
“Right now we are also in a situation where bars, restaurants and gyms are all together [were] closed last night,” she said, adding that business owners are frustrated by the lack of notification.
She said the restrictions mean some workers at factories have had to sleep only to find they can’t get groceries delivered.
Immerse yourself in traffic
Data shows that people in Covid-affected areas are moving less, voluntarily or involuntarily.
Baidu traffic data showed Beijing has fallen from the most congested city in all of China to 74th.
The number of subway riders in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing has fallen by almost 99% year-on-year, according to a report by Goldman Sachs on Friday.
In the southern city of Guangzhou, it fell about 65% from a year earlier, the report said.
Guangzhou is the capital of the export-strong province of Guangdong Hardest hit by this month’s Covid wave. Some frustrated residents have even breached lockdown barriers, local officials said Thursday, according to state media.
Only parts of the city are locked down. But companies are worried and are working overtime to ensure they can fill their orders without interruption, said Klaus Zenkel, vice president of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China and chair of the South China chapter.
He said a company in the food industry went into lockdown for about a week and lost hundreds of tons of an unspecified material.
Members of the EU chamber in Shanghai are moving meetings online and taking other preventive measures, while restaurants and gyms in the northern city of Shenyang have been forced to close again, local business officials said.
Overall, the EU chamber stated on Friday that greater importance must be attached to vaccinating the local population. China lags behind the US and Singapore in immunization rates for seniors.
Chinese authorities have focused in recent months on using frequent virus testing and more targeted measures to control Covid outbreaks while allowing some business activity.
“We’ll keep pushing papers…until [Chinese] government because I think they are considering how to deal with this situation,” Wuttke said. “China has a zero-tolerance policy and is struggling to get out of this corner.”