SHANGHAI, June 11 (Bloomberg): Beijing and Shanghai both resumed mass testing for Covid-19 as new community outbreaks of the virus emerged just days after the two key Chinese cities eased social curbs that had been in place for months.
The capital restarted screening for the virus in several neighborhoods of the Chaoyang district, where many company headquarters and embassies are based, after a flareup in a local bar ended a five-day streak of zero community spread on Thursday.
Shanghai briefly locked down most of the city Saturday to undertake mass testing as authorities continue to report Covid cases outside of quarantine areas.
The quick escalation adds to concerns that China’s Covid Zero strategy may send cities into repeated lockdowns and re-openings given the high transmissibility of the omicron variant, making a sustainable economic recovery unlikely.
The new testing comes after Shanghai lifted its two-month lockdown on June 1 and Beijing rolled back some of its curbs from June 6.
Beijing’s daily Covid case count jumped to 61 for Friday from just eight the previous day, data from the Beijing Municipal Health Commission showed. The infections involved 36 that showed symptoms and 25 which were asymptomatic. All were linked to a cluster found at a popular bar in Sanlitun of Chaoyang.
At least 13 districts in Beijing have so far reported positive cases linked to the cluster at the bar.
The city announced a halt to operations at entertainment venues in Chaoyang district from Thursday and sent more than 4,400 people who were in close contact with the infected into government-mandated quarantine facilities.
Three of the newly-found cases reside in the staff apartment complex at the Universal Beijing Resort, according to the statement from the health commission. The theme park announced late Friday that it would delay its scheduled reopening to cooperate with the government’s Covid-prevention program.
In Shanghai, 16 new local cases were added for Friday, six of which were found outside quarantined areas. The financial hub said it would lock down 15 of its 16 districts over the weekend for mass testing. The news triggered a renewed run on groceries for fear that the temporary lockdown may turn into an extended one.
China on Saturday reported a total of 138 new local cases. Of the total, 65 were confirmed infections and 73 were asymptomatic.
The return of restrictions and mass testing is once again clouding the outlook of the world’s second-largest economy. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists shows the China’s gross domestic product is expected to grow 4.5% in 2022 from a year earlier, well below the government’s target of "around 5.5%.”
Economic activity showed some signs of improvement in May on easing virus curbs, but the fragile recovery could quickly lose steam if the measures are expanded and extended. - Bloomberg