Locked-down Shanghai aims to ringfence its COVID outbreak over the next week, officials said on Friday, while residents in China’s capital Beijing largely heeded the advice of authorities to work from home to stem the virus’ spread.
Easing weeks of punishing restrictions in the commercial hub would bring relief to China’s battered economy, although there is growing concern that Beijing may yet take a similar course of action if it fails to get a nascent outbreak under control.
China has rejected criticism of its uncompromising “zero COVID” policy, saying that saving lives is worth the huge short-term costs and that activity would gradually resume once outbreaks are eradicated.
“Whoever bets that China is at risk of a self-inflicted recession will suffer the consequences of their mistakes,” state-backed nationalist tabloid the Global Times said in an editorial.
According to Reuters, Shanghai’s deputy mayor, Wu Qing, said the city of 25 million aims to eliminate COVID outside of quarantined zones within the next week or so.
After that, the city’s lockdown will be “lifted in batches”, with shops opened and traffic restictions eased, he said in the announcement which confirmed a Reuters story from Sunday.
The vast majority of Shanghai’s more than 2,000 new cases are in areas already under the tightest controls, while those found in the relatively freer communities are the ones most closely watched for clues as to where Shanghai’s outbreak is heading.
The number of such cases rose to four on May 12, up from two the previous day.
Last week, some of Shanghai’s residents were allowed outside their housing compounds for brief walks and grocery shopping but the city has in recent days been tightening curbs.
More and more areas have entered what authorities call “silent management mode”, which typically means boards or fences around buildings, no deliveries and residents once again stuck indoors.
Officials in Shanghai, China’s most populous city and its commercial centre, said economic activity was gradually resuming, with many factories operating in “closed loop” systems, with workers living on site.
More than 9,000 large-scale enterprises in Shanghai were now operating at close to 50% capacity, officials said.
Still, some economists expect China’s economic growth to slow sharply in the second quarter, or even shrink, endangering the annual growth target of about 5.5%.
China’s yuan fell to its weakest since September 2020.
Han Wenxiu, deputy head of the Communist Party’s office for financial and economic affairs, said on Thursday that China would not hesitate to introduce new policies to prop up growth.