Shanghai Finds First Covid-19 Outside Quarantine in Six Days

  • Three infections found in community as total cases also rise
  • Beijing reports slight increase in daily cases to 62

Shanghai found the first cases of Covid-19 outside of quarantine in six days, raising questions about whether the easing of the city’s lockdown will be impacted.

Total infections in the Chinese financial hub rose to 858 on Thursday from 719 on Wednesday, with three found outside of government quarantine. Authorities started to ease the lockdown — which had confined residents to their homes and curtailed business activity — earlier this week after the city hit a milestone of three days of zero community transmission.

Officials acknowledged the “huge pressure” to prevent new infections during a daily briefing on the outbreak, though they announced new reopening steps even after the community cases were found. The patients in a village in the suburban Qingpu district were swiftly put into isolation and their close contacts were tested, said Zhao Dandan, deputy head of the city’s health commission.

The end of the Shanghai lockdown is fueling Chinese assets, with the stock market outperforming global peers this month, despite slow progress on the ground in the city.

Restrictions Remain

Even in areas without new cases, many restrictions remain in place. Large swaths of the city’s population are still largely stuck inside their compounds. Residents must produce a pass to exit their compounds and can only leave by bike or on foot. The passes are distributed to each apartment by residential committees, allowing one person per family to leave during appointed hours for grocery errands.

Retail sales in April slumped 48% to 71.7 billion yuan compared to the year earlier figures, according to data from the local statistics bureau. There are also few signs of any widespread re-opening for businesses.

Financial firms must limit the number of staff returning to the office to 40% of their workforce, the Shanghai Securities News reported. Financial institutions should resume work and production under closed-loop arrangements and in strict accordance with relevant epidemic prevention requirements.

Home to more than 1,600 banks and asset managers as well as one-quarter of China’s expatriate population, the city’s plight battered its image and raised doubts over its ambitions as a global financial center.

There were 1,115 cases nationally on Thursday, up from 1,016 on Wednesday. Sichuan province reported 122 cases for yesterday, from 149 on Wednesday.

The zero-tolerance approach is straining in the face of the highly transmissible omicron variant, with authorities turning to deploying harsh measures more frequently and extensively. The continuing flareups underscore the challenges China faces in pursuing its Covid Zero strategy, as well as the ever-present risk of disruptions that have already taken an enormous economic and social toll. The impact is spreading worldwide.

The shortage of a dye used in medical scans — normally produced at a GE Healthcare factory in Shanghai that has been impacted by the lockdown — has spread to Australia. Health authorities in Queensland state are delaying some non-urgent medical procedures until stocks can be replenished.

In Beijing, new cases rose to 62 on Thursday from 55 on Wednesday. The capital earlier this week locked down some areas of the Fengtai district for seven days and started three rounds of mass testing across four districts as authorities race to stamp out the virus.

It’s been four weeks since Beijing’s latest outbreak began, but there’s few signs the virus is fizzling out. Persistent curbs have only managed to keep infections at a few dozen a day, rather than eliminating transmission. While health authorities managed to disrupt omicron’s spread in the eastern part of the city, the virus seeded new clusters in the west, leading to further restrictions.

Meanwhile, most of the curbs remain in place. People across many districts have been asked to work from home, schools remain shut, restaurants can still only serve takeout and non-essential venues from gyms and shopping malls to museums and movie theaters remain closed. Traffic is thin on roads usually clogged with cars and a large number of stations on the city’s extensive subway network are still closed.

Author: Peter Vercoe, Bloomberg

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