Beijing residents are fretting over tightening COVID-19 curbs in its biggest district as dozens of new cases are being reported daily, the fear being that they will be subjected to the same stringent lockdown imposed on Shanghai.
Incurring a heavy economic cost and facing rare public criticism on its tightly-policed internet, China is increasingly out of step with the rest of the world where restrictions are being abandoned and vaccines relied on to protect people.
But China’s ruling cadre is showing no sign of weakening its resolve to achieve “zero-COVID” and has threatened punitive action against critics of its strict measures.
Internationally, industry organisations have complained that China’s policies aimed at eliminating the virus are responsible for global economic reverberations. At home, the population worries about painful, long-term restrictions.
Asian games cancelled
In the latest ratcheting up of restrictions, Beijing authorities on Friday said all non-essential services in its biggest district, Chaoyang, home to embassies and large offices, would shut.
Compulsory mass testing will also resume in at least four districts over the weekend.
Meanwhile, organisers of the Asian Games, scheduled to take place in September in Hangzhou, southwest Shanghai, postponed them until 2023, defying a global sporting calendar that has largely returned to normal.
After a meeting of the highest decision-making body, the Standing Committee of the Communist Party’s politburo, state media reported late on Thursday that China would come down hard on any critic that distorted, doubted or repudiated its coronavirus policy.
China’s yuan weakened to its lowest level against the dollar since November 2020, while stocks also slumped. Iron ore prices also fell on fears about the impact of the restrictions on demand from China, the world’s top consumer of the steel-making ingredient.
The government and central bank have promised more policy support for the economy.
The Chinese capital has reported dozens of new cases every day for about two weeks since the Beijing outbreak emerged, faring better than Shanghai was on the 14th day of its outbreak.