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China Maintains Covid Fight as Virus Lockdowns Pummel Economy

Date: May 14th 2022

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Beijing will close gyms and cinemas over the Labor Day holiday and Shanghai will keep virus measures in place despite falling cases as it seeks to stamp out the Covid-19 outbreak that’s hobbled its economy.

China’s economic activity contracted sharply in April as a series of lockdowns to contain the rapidly-spreading virus closed factories and snarled supply chains, according to data released on Saturday. That followed sweeping pledges last week from the nation’s top leaders to boost economic growth.

The nation is battling its worst outbreak since the pathogen first emerged in Wuhan in late 2019, with the lockdown imposed on Shanghai’s residents one of the longest and most punishing. The city’s crisis has prompted other regions to impose more hardline measures at the slightest sign of virus flareups to avoid the social and economic dislocation endured by the financial hub.

Beijing found 59 new cases on Saturday, up from 54 the previous day, and has activated a makeshift hospital with 1,200 beds in Xiaotangshan. The Universal Studios theme park in the capital also announced it would temporarily close from Sunday to comply with epidemic prevention measures.

Shanghai -- home to 25 million people -- reported a total of 7,872 new cases Saturday, down from 10,181 the previous day. All infections were restricted to quarantined areas for the second straight day. On Sunday, authorities clarified its threshold for zero community spread, saying six districts “basically” met this criteria and can enjoy less restrictive measures.

“The virus situation in Shanghai has been steadily improving and has been effectively controlled,” said Sun Chunlan, China’s vice premier, according to a report from Xinhua on Sunday. She urged the timely loosening of restrictions for residential compounds without new infections recorded over a week.

Halting the community virus spread would mark an important milestone in Shanghai’s containment efforts and embolden officials to start lifting curbs and allow factories to resume production. Southern technology hub Shenzhen and northeastern province Jilin have begun rolling back curbs and restarting manufacturing after similar containment milestones were achieved.

Chinese officials are now more focused on curtailing the spread of the virus within communities rather than seeking to totally eliminate cases as the highly infectious omicron variant poses unprecedented challenges to the country’s Covid Zero strategy and its economy.

Factory activity last month fell to the lowest level in more than two years, according to official manufacturing PMI data released by the National Bureau of Statistics. Macau’s gaming revenue also slumped in April as the world’s biggest gambling hub suffers from a tourist drought amid China’s lockdown measures.



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