BEIJING: Investors hoped China would ease its stringent Covid Zero strategy once the pivotal Communist Party congress cemented President Xi Jinping’s grip on power. Instead, the opposite seems to be happening.
Fresh lockdowns are being imposed from Wuhan, Covid’s original epicenter, to China’s industrial belt on the east coast. Schools and dining in at restaurants in the southern manufacturing powerhouse of Guangzhou have been suspended, while targeted shutdowns in the metropolises of Beijing and Shanghai continue, with apartment blocks and neighborhoods subject to stay-at-home orders if even a close contact of someone infected has visited.
The intensification comes as infections start to rise again, with China reporting 1,321 new Covid cases for Thursday, the highest tally in two weeks. It also belies an expectation by some investors and China watchers that the country would change tack on the virus after the once-in-five-years congress was over, with Xi defending the Covid Zero policy in his opening address.
A survey by Japanese bank Nomura found the number of Chinese under Covid control measures right now is around 232 million, up from 225 million last week. The 31 cities under some form of lockdown as of Oct. 27 account for one in six people in China and 24.5% of its gross domestic product, Nomura’s analysis found, up from 22.9% the previous week.
“Lockdowns are being enforced even more rigorously since the Party congress concluded,” the analysts said.