Daily Management Review

Beijing Comes To A Standstill As The Chinese Capital Combats Covid With Additional Lockdowns


Beijing Comes To A Standstill As The Chinese Capital Combats Covid With Additional Lockdowns
As Covid controls spread, China's capital city has come to a halt.
On Friday, more and more apartment complexes in Beijing prohibited residents from leaving for at least a few days. This comes on top of an increasing number of business activity bans, which have forced gyms to close and restaurants to suspend in-store dining.
“This morning most of our 30+ staff reported their communities went into a 7-day lockdown,” James Zimmerman, partner in the Beijing office of Perkins Coie, said on Twitter Friday. He said a day earlier, the firm had to tell all its employees to work from home.
It was unclear how many people were affected at the city level, or how strictly stay-in-place measures were enforced. Beijing has a population of about 22 million people.
“You constantly hear of someone going into lockdown and you have this constant feeling that you’re going to be next,” Joerg Wuttke, president of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China, said Friday. He estimated that about 40% of people in his office area were locked down.
The Beijing municipal government did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Municipal authorities have not declared a city-wide lockdown, but have warned that the virus is in a "critical" stage of control.
Despite the gradual tightening of Covid measures over the last two weeks, local infections have increased. The city of Beijing reported more than 1,800 Covid infections on Thursday, bringing the month's total to well over 10,000.
Similar increases in infections have been reported in other parts of mainland China, with a nationwide new daily high of more than 32,000 for Thursday.
The central government sent an encouraging signal to investors this month by shortening quarantine times, among other changes. However, the zero-Covid policy remained unchanged.
“Initially when the [new measures] came 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 is a great deal of variation in what may be interpreted as necessary lockdown.”
“Right now, we are also in a situation where bars, restaurants and gyms, all of them [were] closed last night,” she said, adding that business owners are frustrated by the lack of notice.
She claims that because of the restrictions, some workers have been forced to sleep in factories, only to discover that they can't get food delivered.
Data show that people in Covid-affected areas move less, willingly or unwillingly.
According to Baidu traffic data, Beijing has dropped from the most congested city in China to 74th place.
According to a Goldman Sachs report released Friday, Subway ridership in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing has dropped by nearly 99% year on year. According to the report, that in the southern city of Guangzhou fell by about 65% from the previous year.
The capital of the export-heavy province of Guangdong, Guangzhou, has been the hardest hit by this month's Covid wave.
Local officials said Thursday that some disgruntled residents had even broken through lockdown barriers.
Only certain areas of the city have been secured. However, businesses are concerned and are working extra hard to ensure that orders can be fulfilled without disruption, according to Klaus Zenkel, vice president of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China and chairman of its South China chapter.
He stated that one food company had to shut down for about a week and lost hundreds of tons of an unspecified material.
EU Chamber members in Shanghai are moving meetings online and taking other precautions, while restaurants and gyms in the northern city of Shenyang have had to close again, according to local business representatives.
Overall, the EU Chamber noted on Friday the importance of vaccinating the local population. When it comes to senior vaccination rates, China lags behind the United States and Singapore.
In recent months, Chinese authorities have focused on using frequent virus testing and more targeted measures to control Covid outbreaks while allowing some business activity.
“We will keep pushing papers … to the [Chinese] administration, because I think they are soul-searching how to deal with this situation,” Wuttke said. “China has a zero-tolerance policy and finds it difficult to get itself out of this corner.”