Beijing nervous, COVID cases not dropping

(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Beijing residents are fretting over tightening COVID-19 curbs in its biggest district and dozens of new cases reported daily as China’s leaders reiterated their resolve to battle the virus and threatened action against critics of their strict measures.

Incurring a heavy economic cost and facing rare public criticism on its tightly-policed internet, China is increasingly out of step with the rest of the world where restrictions are being abandoned and vaccines relied on to protect people.

Internationally, industry organisations have complained that China’s “zero-COVID” policies have global economic reverberations. At home, the population worries about painful, long-term restrictions.

In the latest ratcheting up of restrictions, Beijing authorities on Friday said all non-essential services in its biggest district Chaoyang, home to embassies and large offices, would shut. Mass testing will also resume in at least four districts over the weekend.

Meanwhile, organisers of the Asian Games, scheduled to take place in September in Hangzhou, southwest Shanghai, postponed them until 2023, defying a global sporting calendar that has largely returned to normal.

The Chinese capital is racing to avoid an explosion in cases like the one that forced the commercial hub of Shanghai into an almost complete lockdown for more than a month, taking a financial and psychological toll on its residents.

After a meeting of the highest decision-making body, the Standing Committee of the Communist Party’s politburo, state media reported late on Thursday that China would fight any comment or action that distorted, doubted or repudiated its coronavirus policy.

China’s yuan weakened to its lowest level against the dollar since November 2020, while stocks slumped. Iron ore prices also fell on fears about the impact of the restrictions on demand from China, the world’s top consumer of the steel-making ingredient.

The government and central bank have promised more policy support for the economy.

The capital has reported dozens of new cases a day for about two weeks since its outbreak emerged, faring better than Shanghai was on the 14th day of its outbreak.


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