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China’s capital city Beijing battles Covid with more apartment lockdowns

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BEIJING — China’s capital city is grinding to a near standstill as Covid controls spread.

An increasing number of apartment compounds in Beijing on Friday forbade residents from leaving for a minimum of a couple of days. That is on top of a growing variety of bans on business activity, which have forced gyms to shut and restaurants to halt in-store dining.

“This morning most of our 30+ staff reported their communities went right into a 7-day lockdown,” James Zimmerman, partner within the Beijing office of Perkins Coie, said on Twitter Friday. He said a day earlier, the firm had to inform all its employees to work at home.

It was not clear how many individuals were affected at a city level, and to what degree stay-in-place measures were being enforced. Beijing has a population of roughly 22 million.

Covid restrictions have tightened in Beijing while infections keep soaring, prompting lockdowns of communities.

Jade Gao | Afp | Getty Images

“You continuously hear of somebody going into lockdown and you’ve got this constant feeling that you’ll be next,” Joerg Wuttke, president of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China, said Friday. He estimated that about 40% of individuals in his office area were locked down.

Beijing city government didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

Municipal authorities haven’t announced a city-wide lockdown, and warned it’s in a “critical” period for controlling the virus.

Local infections have surged despite gradual tightening of Covid measures over the past two weeks. Beijing city reported greater than 1,800 Covid infections for Thursday, bringing the full for the month to well over 10,000.

Other parts of mainland China have reported similar surges in infections — to a nationwide latest every day high of greater than 32,000 for Thursday.

The central government this month sent an encouraging signal to investors about future reopening by trimming quarantine times, amongst other changes. However the zero-Covid policy itself didn’t change.

“Initially when the [new measures] got here out, we did feel somewhat positive. But now, we’re finding that interpretation varies widely,” said Jennifer Birdsong, Chengdu-based member of the EU Chamber’s Southwest China Chapter Board. “There’s an excellent deal of variation in what could also be interpreted as mandatory lockdown.”

Why China shows no sign of backing away from its 'zero-Covid' strategy

“Immediately, we’re also in a situation where bars, restaurants and gymnasiums, all of them [were] closed last night,” she said, adding that business owners are frustrated by the shortage of notice.

She said the restrictions mean some employees have needed to sleep at factories, only to search out they are not capable of get food delivered.

Plunge in road traffic

Data show that individuals in Covid-hit areas are moving around less, willingly or unwillingly.

Baidu traffic data showed Beijing has fallen from being essentially the most congested city in all of China to 74th place.

Subway ridership within the southwestern municipality of Chongqing plunged by nearly 99% from a yr ago, based on a Goldman Sachs report Friday.

That within the southern city of Guangzhou fell by about 65% from last yr, the report said.

Guangzhou, the capital of the export-heavy province of Guangdong, has been hardest hit by this month’s Covid wave. Some frustrated residents have even broken through lockdown barriers, local officials said Thursday, based on state media.

Only parts of town have locked down. But businesses are frightened and are working time beyond regulation to be sure they will fulfill their orders without disruption, said Klaus Zenkel, vp on the EU Chamber of Commerce in China and chairman of its South China chapter.

He said one company within the food industry needed to lock down for about per week, and lost a whole bunch of tons of an unspecified material.

Read more about China from CNBC Pro

EU Chamber members in Shanghai are moving meetings online and taking other preventative measures, while within the northern city of Shenyang, restaurants and gymnasiums have needed to close again, local business representatives said.

Overall, the EU Chamber noted Friday a necessity for greater emphasis on vaccinating the local population. China lags the U.S. and Singapore in terms of vaccination rates for seniors.

Chinese authorities have focused in recent months on using frequent virus testing and more targeted measures in an try to control Covid outbreaks while allowing some business activity.

“We’ll keep pushing papers … to the [Chinese] administration, because I feel they’re soul-searching easy methods to cope with this case,” Wuttke said. “China has a zero-tolerance policy and finds it difficult to get itself out of this corner.”

China censors fresh online criticism of zero-Covid measures

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