Beijing district urges staying home for weekend as COVID-19 cases rise

BEIJING: Beijing’s biggest district urged people to stay home during the weekend and COVID-19 outbreaks grew in numerous Chinese cities on Friday (Nov 18), even as China further fine-tuned its COVID rules by removing capacity limits at entertainment venues.

Under a series of measures unveiled last week, authorities have sought to be more targeted in applying COVID-19 curbs that are taking a heavy toll on the economy and fuelling public frustration and anger, sparking investor hopes this week for more significant easing.

However, China continues to emphasise its commitment to its zero-COVID policy, which Beijing argues saves lives, and outbreaks in numerous cities lead to ongoing localised lockdowns.

Beijing’s Chaoyang district, home to embassies and large office buildings, urged residents to stay home this weekend after the city reported a record 466 infections for Thursday.

“Beijing is going through a big exam,” city government spokesperson Xu Hejian told a Friday media briefing.

City officials warned of rising community spread and said prevention and control “is at a critical moment”.

On Friday, China reported 25,129 new local infections, up from 23,132 a day earlier and nearing its record of over 29,000 recorded in April during the height of Shanghai’s outbreak.

Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs, which recently trimmed its fourth quarter China growth forecast to 3 per cent from 3.6 per cent due to localised COVID-19 curbs, expects continued disruptions before gradual reopening, which it predicts will start in April.

“In our baseline, before the April reopening, COVID control measures such as targeted lockdowns and testing will still be implemented in places where there is local COVID resurgence, posting protracted disruptions to services and consumption over the next few months,” Goldman Sachs analysts wrote.

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