Beijing: Shanghai braces for final Covid battle, Beijing outbreak stubborn

SHANGHAI/BEIJING: Shanghai was tightening its Covid-19 lockdown during what it hoped would be the last week of its battle against the virus before it could begin to gradually ease restrictions, while Beijing continued to battle its much smaller outbreak but persistent.
China’s mall of 25 million had hoped to emerge from its painful six-week lockdown later this month. On Saturday, authorities hoped a final round of tightening would eradicate the last infections from the country’s worst Covid outbreak of the pandemic.
Many residents of the country’s most populous city, who were allowed to leave their homes about a week ago for short walks or quick purchases, have received more recent notices to stay indoors during a “quiet” period of three days.
Many buildings were told overnight that the restriction would be extended through Friday. Silence usually means residents are not allowed to leave the house, and in some cases it can mean no deliveries.
Linette Lim, who has spent more than 40 days in lockdown, said her community received that notice on Friday, a day after its official risk levels were lowered to a degree that in theory should have led to looser restrictions.
“It’s very frustrating because everyone has been asked to make sacrifices, to overcome the current difficulties for the collective good, and people have been constantly meeting and facing whatever comes their way,” he said.
“But somehow the goal posts keep changing,” Lim said. “Nerves are tight and people don’t have an end goal to look forward to.”
Hundreds of millions in dozens of Chinese cities live under Covid restrictions of various degrees. The measures are affecting consumption and manufacturing in the world’s second-largest economy and disrupting global trade and supply chains.
Some analysts expect the economy to contract this quarter. Officials have promised more stimulus measures.
China will offer subsidies, tax breaks and easier loans to boost college graduates’ prospects, the cabinet said on Friday, as it sets a record 10.76 million to finish college and enter the workforce this year in an economy weaker.
China’s unemployment rate hit its highest level in nearly two years in March at 5.8%, while youth unemployment was 16%, the highest since July 2021.
Shanghai city official Ding Bo said on Saturday that the number of patients in quarantine hospitals had dropped to 50,000, a fifth of the peak recorded last month. Therefore, the authorities closed five quarantine centers, he said.
The city reported more than 1,500 daily coronavirus cases, up from more than 2,000 the day before, all in areas under the strictest controls.
Cases found in relatively freer communities are being watched closely for clues as to where the outbreak is headed. One such case was detected on Friday, up from four the day before.
Beijing reported 56 daily cases, up from 50. The capital has been detecting a few dozen new cases nearly every day since the first infections of its outbreak were discovered on April 22.
Officials in the capital this week denied rumors of an impending lockdown, urging people not to panic buy but to stay home. Residents appeared to be heeding the advice, as many of Beijing’s streets were eerily quiet.
Mass testing in most parts of the city has become an almost daily routine.
Authorities in the capital have already banned dine-in services at restaurants, closed some shopping malls, entertainment and tourist venues, suspended sections of the bus, subway and taxi systems and imposed lockdowns on some residential buildings.

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