- China’s new local infections reach 25,129, near April high
- Guanghzhou’s new daily infections near 9,000
- Chinese capital reports 466 new cases
BEIJING, Nov 18 (Reuters) – Beijing’s largest district urged people to stay at home over the weekend and COVID-19 outbreaks surged in many Chinese cities on Friday, even as China further refined its COVID rules through capacity restrictions at entertainment venues to remove.
Under a series of measures unveiled last week, authorities sought to be more targeted in applying COVID-19 curbs that are taking a heavy toll on the economy and fueling public frustration and anger, fueling investor hopes this week for more substantial relief.
However, China continues to stress its commitment to its zero-Covid policy, which Beijing says saves lives, as outbreaks in cities across China lead to ongoing localized lockdowns.
Beijing’s Chaoyang district, home to embassies and large office buildings, urged residents to stay home over the weekend after the city reported a record 466 infections for Thursday.
“Beijing is going through a major examination,” city government spokesman Xu Hejian said at a media briefing on Friday.
City officials have warned of increasing community spread, saying prevention and control “are at a critical moment”.
Some restaurants in the district said they were told to stop eating in, while some people were told by their residences to take daily COVID tests. The stepped-up testing comes as some cities have cut back on free community testing, which has been a blow to municipal finances.
China reported 25,129 new local infections on Friday, up from 23,132 a day earlier and close to the record of more than 29,000 recorded in April during the height of Shanghai’s outbreak.
Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs, which recently cut its fourth-quarter growth forecast in China to 3% from 3.6% due to localized COVID curbs, expects continued disruptions ahead of gradual reopening, which it says will begin in April.
“In our baseline, prior to the April reopening, COVID control measures such as targeted containment and testing will continue to be implemented in places where there is local COVID resurgence, placing protracted disruptions in services and consumption over the next several months,” Goldman said. Sachs analysts wrote .
In another sign that China may be eyeing relief in 2023, President Xi Jinping said on Friday that China would consider hosting the third Belt & Road Forum next year. The previous events, in 2017 and 2019, drew leaders and officials from dozens of countries.
Experts warn that full reopening requires a massive vaccination booster effort, and will also require a change in messaging in a country where COVID is still widely feared, despite overall case numbers that are low by global standards.
China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism on Friday issued guidelines to travel agencies, entertainment and performance venues removing restrictions on the number of people allowed into theaters and events such as concerts and music festivals in low-risk areas without outbreaks.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism issued the revised guidelines to travel agencies, entertainment and performance venues, while local administrators were told to improve the accuracy of prevention and control measures and not to close entertainment venues at will.
The specific measures, which are mostly in line with China’s latest rules, could nonetheless be a bright spot for service firms such as karaoke lounges and Internet cafes that have been battered by nearly three years of zero-Covid policies.
Last week, China announced 20 new measures intended to ease the impact of COVID restrictions, including shortening quarantine times for close contacts of cases and incoming travelers by two days to eight days in total.
The southern metropolis of Guangzhou, a manufacturing and transportation hub that is the epicenter of the current outbreak and has locked down a handful of districts, on Friday reported nearly 9,000 new cases for the previous day.
Guangzhou announced plans on Thursday to build temporary hospitals and quarantine sites with capacity for nearly 250,000 beds for COVID-19 infections.
The southwestern megacity of Chongqing, another hotspot, reported 4,666 new infections.
Reporting by Albee Zhang, Bernard Orr Writing by Tony Munroe; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Raissa Kasolowsky
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