Beijing, Shanghai residents return to work as China eases coexistence with Covid-19

Beijing

Zhang Qiao / VCG via Getty Images

  • Commuters in Beijing and Shanghai packed subway trains on Monday as millions have been infected with the virus across the country.
  • President Xi Jinping scrapped the country’s zero-Covid policy in the face of protests and a growing outbreak.
  • An annual Christmas market held in the Bund, a shopping area in Shanghai, was also packed over the weekend.
  • For more financial news, go to News24 company front page.

Masked commuters in Beijing and Shanghai packed subway trains on Monday, with China’s two biggest cities coming closer to living with Covid-19 as millions have been infected with the virus across the country.

After years of ruthless crackdowns on the coronavirus, President Xi Jinping scrapped the country’s zero-Covid policy in the face of protests and a growing outbreak.

But after the initial shock of the policy U-turn and a few weeks in which people in Beijing and Shanghai stayed at home, either treating the disease or trying to avoid it, there are signs that life is on the mend to return to normal. . .

Subway trains in Beijing and Shanghai were packed, while some major traffic arteries in the two cities were jammed with slow-moving cars on Monday as residents commuted to work.

An annual Christmas market held in the Bund, a shopping area in Shanghai, was also packed over the weekend. Crowds flocked to the winter festive season at Shanghai Disneyland and Beijing’s Universal Studios on Sunday, lining up for rides in Christmas-themed costumes.

READ | China announces easing of nationwide Covid restrictions

The number of trips to scenic spots in the southern city of Guangzhou this weekend increased by 132 percent compared to last weekend, local newspaper The 21st Century Business Herald reported.

China is the last major country to treat Covid-19 as endemic. Its containment measures had slowed the $17 trillion economy to its slowest growth rate in nearly half a century, disrupting global supply chains and trade.

The economy is expected to suffer further in the short term as the wave of Covid-19 spreads to manufacturing areas and the workforce falls ill, before recovering next year, say the analysts.

Tesla suspended production at its Shanghai plant on Saturday, and advanced a plan to halt most work at the plant in the last week of December. The company did not give a reason.

rising tide

Despite a record surge in cases across the country, China reported no deaths from Covid-19 on the mainland in the six days to Sunday, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said on Sunday, although the crematoria were facing increasing demand.

China has narrowed its definition for classifying deaths as Covid-19-related, counting only those involving pneumonia or respiratory failure caused by Covid-19, raising eyebrows among global health experts.

According to state media, the country’s health system has come under enormous strain, with staff being asked to work as sick and retired medical workers in rural communities are rehired to help.

The provincial government of Zhejiang, a large industrial province near Shanghai with a population of 65.4 million, said on Sunday it was battling one million new daily infections from COVID-19, a number expected to double in the coming days

READ | How a mysterious screenshot from China spurred a R8-billion rally

Health authorities in the southeastern province of Jiangxi have said infections would peak in early January, adding that there could be further spikes as people travel next month for celebrations of the Lunar New Year, state media reported.

They warned that the wave of infections would last three months and that around 80% of the province’s 45 million residents could become infected.

The city of Qingdao in the eastern province of Shandong estimated that up to 530,000 residents were infected each day.

Cities in China have scrambled to add intensive care units and fever clinics, facilities designed to prevent the wider spread of contagious diseases in hospitals.

Beijing’s municipal government said the number of fever clinics in the city had increased from 94 to nearly 1,300, state media said. Shanghai has 2,600 such clinics and has transferred doctors from less strained medical departments to help.

Concerns remain about the ability of China’s less affluent cities to cope with the surge in serious infections, especially as hundreds of millions of rural migrant workers are expected to return to their families for the Lunar New Year .

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