Shanghai marks a milestone in the coronavirus outbreak, and Beijing stands on the brink

  • Shanghai reports no COVID cases outside quarantine areas
  • Beijing is on high alert, preparing for more restrictions
  • The breakthrough would be a victory for Xi in a crucial year
  • Infection declines as China begins Labor Day holiday

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – Shanghai said on Saturday it found no new COVID-19 cases daily outside of quarantine areas, marking a major milestone in its battle to contain the virus that has paralyzed the city and paralyzed 25 million people. Beijing residents are on the edge of the abyss.

The capital’s streets were eerily quiet at the start of the long Labor Day holiday, as residents worried that authorities would impose more restrictions during the holiday when many travel or socialize.

Sights of homes and buildings in Shanghai, China’s most populous city, with residents confined to prevent them from leaving, have made headlines in recent weeks as most other countries in the world learn to live with the coronavirus.

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China maintains a COVID-free policy aimed at stamping out the disease, leading to anger and frustration in residents, who are locked up for more than a month. Some, struggling to find food and other daily necessities, have shown rare public opposition to strict government controls.

If the Zero Tolerance campaign succeeds, it will be a victory for President Xi Jinping’s approach in a year in which he is expected to secure an unprecedented third term of leadership.

Officials in Shanghai did not discuss the achievement in their daily press conference on the numbers for Friday, but Chinese social media rejoiced, with the topic “Shanghai no community-wide COVID transmission” receiving more than 190,000 views Saturday morning on Weibo. a program.

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“Shanghai has finally reached zero in society!!! I hope Shanghai wakes up as soon as possible!!” one post said. Another said, “There is hope that we can be released after the May holiday.”

And zero cases were recorded Friday outside the quarantine areas in Shanghai, compared to 108 cases on Thursday. Other Chinese cities under lockdown began easing restrictions after stopping transmission outside quarantine areas.

But some have cast doubt on the Shanghai landmark, noting that most of the city’s residents have been locked up in some form of quarantine.

On Saturday, health authorities said there are nearly 16,000 closed areas in Shanghai, with more than 4 million people banned from leaving their homes. Another 5.4 million people were prevented from leaving their compounds.

In practice, many residents remaining in the low-risk prevention zones are still prohibited from leaving their compounds.

“Currently, epidemic control and prevention in the city is still in critical condition, and the trend is still that people need to strengthen controls,” said Zhao Dandan, deputy director of the Shanghai Health Commission. “Let’s all stick to this hard-earned defensive level.”

The battle to rein in the largely portable Omicron variant in Shanghai has come at the expense of the economy, businesses and people, while delivery companies have been burdened with restrictions and logistics chains have become tainted with restrictions.

Factory activity in China in April contracted the fastest in 26 months to the lowest level since the early months of the epidemic, which was first detected in central China, as the shutdown halted industrial production and disrupted supply chains. Data released on Saturday raised fears of a sharp slowdown in the second quarter that would weigh on global growth. Read more

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Shanghai officials, who say they are eager to get factories back to work, said more than 80% of 666 priority companies had restarted production and they had drawn up a second list of 1,188 companies.

Infections are waning as the world’s most populous country enters the Labor Day holiday, which lasts until Wednesday, traditionally one of China’s busiest tourist seasons, but is being hit hard this year by the virus. Read more

Some observers say the authorities have been less strict in getting people tested in recent days.

In Beijing, authorities are racing to detect COVID cases and isolate close contacts with infected people. The local government said residents must submit DNA test results within seven days before going to public places or using public transportation, valid after the holiday break.

Adding to the frustration in both cities, officials offered no timetable or strategy for returning to some semblance of normalcy.

Nomura estimates that 46 cities are in full or partial lockdown, affecting 343 million people. Société Générale estimates that provinces with significant mobility restrictions account for 80% of China’s economic output.

China will step up its political support for the economy in response to the coronavirus outbreak and other headwinds, the Communist Party’s top decision-making body said on Friday, lifting stocks from two-year lows. Read more

Shanghai recorded 47 deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, down from 52 the day before.

Some have questioned the death rate, with many residents saying relatives or friends died after contracting the coronavirus as early as March.

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On Saturday, China’s Xinhua News Agency said that Beijing recorded 48 cases per day with symptoms of COVID-19, compared to 47 cases the day before. She added that the city also recorded six asymptomatic cases, compared to two cases the day before.

Mainland China reported 10,793 daily cases of COVID-19, the National Health Commission said Saturday, down from 15,688 new cases the day before.

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Covering by Brenda Goh in Shanghai and Min Zhang in Beijing; Written by Anne Marie Rowntree; Editing by Jerry Doyle and William Mallard

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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