After Zero Covid, China Has Reopened. However, There is a Long Journey Ahead

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There is still a long way to go until mainland China is back to how it was before the outbreak, even though most Covid regulations were unexpectedly lifted about two weeks ago.

According to Baidu statistics, big cities like Shanghai and Shenzhen saw very minimal traffic during the Friday morning rush hour.

According to Wind Information, metro use in major cities has remained significantly below average through Thursday.

S&P Global Ratings analysts stated in a report on Wednesday that the deserted streets of Beijing in mid-December were evidence that the substantially larger-than-expected COVID waves were leading to deliberate social separation.

Even while “this wave may lessen in future weeks,” researchers predict it would likely spike again in late January 2023, in celebration of the Lunar New Year. “Family reunions will trigger widespread migration in China for the first time in over three years.”

The increasingly strict zero-Covid policy in China was eased on December 7 in a number of ways, including the removal of virus testing procedures and health code inspections for internal travel. Meanwhile, cases in the area, particularly in Beijing, began to rise sharply.

President of the American Chamber of Commerce in China Michael Hart reported that within a week, more than 60% of one Beijing-based company’s workers tested positive for Covid.

On Friday, he said that it had been two weeks after the incident and that employees may now return to work. It everything happened so quickly, and we plunged down. It would seem that we are recovering quickly.

According to Baidu statistics, Beijing’s morning traffic improved marginally from the week before, making it once again the most congested in the country. Even still, the data revealed that Beijing’s congestion was around 25% lower than the year before.

Approximately two-thirds of the nearly 200 AmCham China members surveyed between December 16 and 19 believed that the effects of the most recent Covid epidemic will go away within a month to three months, according to Hart.

Hart said that many businesses presumably keep extra product on hand as a result of interruptions caused by the Shanghai shutdown earlier this year, and that respondents did not report any severe supply chain concerns.

Most responders, he added, were unable to speculate on the long-term effects of the epidemic on their businesses at this time.

Hart predicted that it would be a full year after travel was completely restored before foreign direct investment in China would begin to rise again.

Foreign visitors to the Chinese mainland are still subject to quarantine. Arrivals are presently subject to a five-day quarantine in a central facility, followed by a three-day quarantine at home.

A growing trend in tourism

According to other indicators, domestic tourism has been on the rise.

According to Qunar statistics quoted by Chinese media Sina Finance, bookings for flights departing Beijing from Monday to Wednesday increased by 38% from a week earlier, while economy rates increased by 20%. It was impossible for CNBC to verify the information without bias.

The number of people booking flights to Hainan, a region in China known for its tropical climate, increased by 68% between December 7 and December 18, according to the Chinese travel portal Trip.com. According to Trip.com, reservations at Hainan hotels increased by 20% last week compared to the week before.

Other sections of the nation are seeing outbreaks, although Beijing city itself is showing signs of recovery from the recent Covid epidemic.

According to Klaus Zenkel, vice president of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China and head of its South China chapter, there are far less people walking the streets in Shenzhen and Guangzhou than in other parts of the country. According to his calculations, there was a 40 percent decline in vehicle traffic, which would indicate an infection rate of 60 percent.

Zenkel said Thursday that the majority of organisations are adhering to standards that only require workers to stay home if they have a fever or severe symptoms of Covid. That implies fewer people will be available to work; let’s just pray that nobody gets sick at once.

Data deficiency

The official death toll and infection rate from the recent Covid epidemic in China are not known.

Mike Ryan, head of emergencies for the World Health Organization, said at a briefing on Wednesday that China was probably unable to keep up with the spike of illnesses.

Currently in China, “what is being reported is relatively low numbers of patients in hospital or relatively low numbers of cases in ICUs,” according to an official transcript, but there are rumours that those ICUs are filling up.

It’s possible that three days ago, in the midst of a fast-moving wave, you reported that everything at your hospital was OK. There’s a chance things won’t be OK this morning since “the wave has arrived” and “all of a sudden you have extremely high power of infection.”

After mandated testing was reduced, many individuals opted to test themselves for the virus. The National Health Commission has likewise ceased reporting instances of asymptomatic individuals in the last week.

To update the public on the number of confirmed cases, “the administration has been [having] daily news conferences,” Hart of AmCham said. And then there was complete silence.

There have been no formal statements, he said, so speculations have been able to travel more freely. Hart said that his conversations with government agencies showed that government workplaces were adopting remote work at a rate comparable to that seen in private industry.

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