SHANGHAI/BEIJING: China’s two largest cities tightened COVID-19 curbs on Monday, fuelling public angst and even questions about the legality of its uncompromising battle with the virus that has battered the world’s second-largest economy.
In Shanghai, enduring its sixth week of lockdown, authorities have launched a new push to end infections outside quarantine zones by late May, according to people familiar with the matter.
While there has been no official announcement, residents in at least four of Shanghai’s 16 districts received notices at the weekend saying they would not be allowed to leave their homes or receive deliveries, prompting a scramble to stock up on food.
Some of these people had previously been allowed to move around their residential compounds.
“Go home, go home!” a woman shouted through a megaphone at residents mingling below an apartment block impacted by the new restrictions on Sunday, a scene that might baffle the rest of the world that has opted to open up and live with the virus.
“It was like a prison,” said Coco Wang, a Shanghai resident living under the new restrictions. “We are not afraid of the virus. We are afraid of this policy.”
Meanwhile, in the most severe restrictions imposed in Beijing so far, an area in the southwest of the capital on Monday forbade residents from leaving their neighbourhoods and ordered all activities not related to virus prevention to halt.
In other badly-hit districts of Beijing, residents have been told to work from home, some restaurants and public transport have closed, and additional roads, compounds and parks were sealed off on Monday.
The restrictions have taken a heavy toll on China’s economy.
China’s export growth slowed to its weakest in almost two years, data on Monday showed, as the central bank pledged to step up support for the slowing economy. . In a stark sign of the stresses for business, China’s auto association estimated that sales last month dropped a staggering 48% year-on-year as COVID restrictions shut factories and crimped domestic demand.