Beijing shuts parks, museums as China’s COVID cases rise

BEIJING, Nov 22 (Reuters) – Beijing closed parks, shopping malls and museums on Tuesday as several Chinese cities restarted testing for COVID-19 as authorities battled a case that raised concerns about the economy. and dashed hopes for a speedy recovery. .

China reported 28,127 new domestic transmissions for Monday, nearing its daily total since April, with infections in the southern city of Guangzhou and the southwestern province of Chongqing accounting for half of the total.

In Beijing, cases have been falling to new levels every day, prompting calls from the local government for many residents to stay and show evidence of a negative COVID test, for more than 48 hours, to enter the ‘public house.

The pandemic is testing China’s recent changes to its zero-covid-19 policy, which is to make the authorities focus on prevention measures and move them away from mandatory insurance. and an experiment that suffocated the economy and depressed the population almost three years into the disease. .

“Some of our friends have failed, and some have lost their jobs,” said a 50-year-old Beijing retiree surnamed Zhu.

“We cannot do many of the things we intend to do, and it is not possible to travel. Therefore, we really hope that this disease can be stopped as soon as possible,” he said.

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Health officials said two more deaths from COVID-19, after three over the weekend, were China’s first since May.

Shanghai on Tuesday ordered the closure of cultural and entertainment venues in seven of its 16 districts after reporting 48 new cases in the region, while the city of Tianjin, close to Beijing, became the latest to order local testing.

Even after the revised guidelines, China remains a global outlier with strict COVID restrictions, including permanent restrictions.

Defensive measures in Beijing and elsewhere, even as China struggles to avoid a city-wide lockdown like the one that hit Shanghai this year, have returned investors worried about the world’s second-largest economy, and -plunging stocks and prompting analysts to cut forecasts for China’s year. – stop oil search.

Brokerage Nomura said its real estate data estimated that 19.9% ​​of China’s total housing stock was in foreclosure or foreclosure, up from 15.6% last Monday and not in place. far from the peak in April, during the Shanghai lockdown. .

The government argues that President Xi Jinping’s signature zero-covid-19 policy is life-saving and necessary to prevent the health system from being overwhelmed.

But many dismayed social media users drew comparisons to those who did not support masks at the soccer World Cup, which kicked off on Sunday in Qatar.

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“Tens of thousands in Qatar are not wearing masks. We are still scared,” one user wrote on the Weibo platform.

The lock is locked

The capital on Monday warned it was facing its worst test of the epidemic and strict rules for entry, requiring people from other parts of China to undergo a three-day test for COVID before being allowed in. they left their house.

Many residents of Beijing have seen their homes locked down, although the restrictions only last for a few days.

Some residents said the delivery of goods is slow due to heavy traffic as many museums and playgrounds such as Happy Valley Park and Chaoyang Park, which are frequented by joggers, are closed. popular artists, said they will close.

Beijing reported 1,438 new domestic cases for Monday, up from 962 on Sunday, plus another 634 for the first 15 hours of Tuesday.

Vice President Sun Chunlan, who introduced the zero-covid-19 policy, visited Chongqing on Monday and urged the authorities to stick to the plan and bring the outbreak under control, the municipality said.

NOT LIKE ROSY

China’s economy is facing one of its slowest growth rates in decades: a huge financial bubble has burst, youth unemployment has reached record highs, and zero-covid-19 has withheld the private sector from the zero-covid and countermeasures of the company it says has seen a “barbaric” expansion.

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Investors are hopeful that China’s targeted enforcement of zero-covid-19 measures could herald an even bigger drop, but many analysts caution against being too pessimistic.

Experts warn that a full recovery requires a massive vaccination effort and information exchange in countries where the disease is still feared. The authorities said they plan to build the capacity of hospitals and fever clinics to monitor patients, and organize vaccination programs.

Many businesses, especially those that are consumer-facing, also fear that they will not survive until next year as consumers continue to hold onto their money.

“The real picture may not be as rosy as it seems,” Nomura analysts wrote, saying they expected any opening to open as soon as March next year, after the turnaround. of the Chinese leader.

“Development can be slow and backward as policymakers can back off after seeing a rapid increase in lawsuits and social unrest. Therefore, the leaders can be more reluctant than being the former are first when trying to decipher Beijing’s true intentions,” Nomura wrote. .

Statements by Beijing and Shanghai newsrooms; Written by Brenda Goh; Editing by Tony Munroe, Miral Fahmy, Gerry Doyle and Raissa Kasolowsky

Our principles: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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