Authorities in Shanghai have expanded its pandemic restrictions by locking down western parts of the city two days ahead of schedule as the number of Covid-19 cases in China’s financial hub continued to sharply rise, despite half the city already being under a stringent lockdown.

Key Facts

China’s National Health Commission reported 5,656 new asymptomatic and 326 new symptomatic Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, up from the previous day’s numbers of 4,381 and 96, respectively.

Shanghai is currently on the third day of a planned two-phase restriction of the metropolis, which initially involved staggered five-day lockdowns for the city’s eastern and western halves split roughly along the Huangpu River.

The current phase of the lockdown—in place until Friday—was supposed to be limited to Shanghai’s Pudong financial district and nearby neighborhoods for mass testing.

However, Reuters reports that several residents in the western part of the city have also received notices from their housing committees barring them from leaving their residence for the next seven days.

The Shanghai Stock Exchange remains operational despite the lockdown and as of 3 p.m. local time it was up close 2% for the day.

Big Number

7,090. That’s the total number of asymptomatic Covid-19 cases that were reported all across China on Wednesday, according to the National Health Commission’s data. China also reported 1,565 new symptomatic infections, 1,150 of which were in the Jilin province. While Shanghai accounts for nearly 80% of China’s new asymptomatic cases, the city of Changchun in the Jilin province has seen the lion’s share of symptomatic cases and is facing its own stringent lockdown.

News Peg

An economist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong estimated that the ongoing lockdowns are costing China at least $46 billion a month or 3.1% of GDP in lost economic output. In a likely effort to offset this, Shanghai’s government has announced a series of economic measures including tax refunds, rent cuts and low-cost loans for small businesses. The Shanghai stock exchange, China’s largest bourse, remains open and workers at the city’s banks, brokerages and asset management firms are reportedly staying and sleeping at their workplace for the duration of the lockdown. Carmaker General Motors has been trying to keep its factories running by asking its workers to sleep on factory floors, according to Reuters.

Key Background

The ongoing outbreak is China’s worst since the early days of the pandemic in Wuhan back in 2020. Over the past year China managed to keep large outbreaks at bay by using its so-called ‘dynamic zero-Covid’ strategy which involved snap lockdowns and mass testing in cities where local spread was detected. The ongoing surge, however, has been attributed to the fast spreading omicron subvariant known as BA.2. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday said that BA.2 has now become the dominant variant spreading in the U.S. comprising more than half of all Covid-19 infections.

Further Reading

Shanghai expands COVID lockdown as new daily caseload surges by a third (Reuters)

China tries to limit economic blow of Shanghai shutdown (Associated Press)

Source: Forbes

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