Concerns grow over Shanghai’s Covid crackdown

Omicron wave threatens to turn into a crisis for China and stall the global economy

Shanghai is sinking under a wave of Covid-19 cases as it washes over China’s Wall Street.

More than 20,000 bankers, traders and research staff are now living in glitzy office towers across the high-rise district of Lujiazui and surrounding areas.

In a bid to keep the country’s financial heart beating, they are even sleeping behind their desks to escape the city’s tough lockdown rules.

“The overall impact is great,” Li Jiamin, 31, who works in finance, told The Associated Press news agency, adding that her company had put in place emergency sleeping and eating arrangements.

Economic “bubbles” like these have sprouted up across Lujiazui after official figures revealed a further 5,982 new cases on Wednesday. 

Since March 1, China has “recorded” more than 70,000 locally transmitted infections as the highly-contagious Omicron variant sweeps across “28 provincial-level regions,” state-owned Global Times reported.

Already the country’s “zero-Covid” policy is being stretched to breaking point.

“Spreading Omicron infections are testing the sustainability of this policy,” Louis Kuijs, the chief Asia-Pacific economist at global rating agency S&P, wrote in a note earlier this week.

“The possibility of rapid transmission of Omicron in China is a key risk to its economy,” he said.

Testing time:

  • Multiple testing is being carried out across sections of the city in a two-stage lockdown.
  • Shanghai has a population of around 26 million.
  • It is the richest city in China with annual GDP in 2021 topping US$680 billion.
  • Major companies such as Telsa have set up their Chinese headquarters in Shanghai.
  • It is now the latest major metropolis to be hit by the Omicron variant.
  • High-tech hub Shenzhen, motor city Changchun and financial center Hong Kong have also been grappling with Covid-19 outbreaks.
  • Other key industrial areas hit by the Omicron wave have been Jilin, Guangdong, Jiangsu, and Shaanxi.

We fear that we may be about to witness the beginning of an Omicron crisis across China.

Joerg Wuttke, the president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China

Delve deeper: The rapid spread of this latest epidemic is raising questions about China’s testing strategy and the effectiveness of its domestic vaccines. 

Growing threat: “We fear that we may be about to witness the beginning of an Omicron crisis across China,” Joerg Wuttke, the president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, said as reported by the South China Morning Post.

Booster shots: “Instead of seeing thousands of people queuing for tests on a near-daily basis, it would be preferable to see lines of people getting a booster shot capable of dealing with the Omicron variant,” Wuttke pointed out.

Big picture: The next 10 days will be crucial for Shanghai as it battles a silent predator that has infected nearly 486 million people worldwide. The global death toll has already passed the six-million mark. 

All at sea: “If this city of ours came to a complete halt, there would be many international cargo ships floating in the East China Sea,” Wu Fan, of the Shanghai pandemic task force, said.

Global fallout: “This would impact the entire national economy and the global economy,” Wu told a media briefing at the weekend.

China Factor comment: President Xi Jinping’s “zero-Covid” policy appears to be on life support. If you believe the official numbers, “China achieved great success during the last two years.” But now, it is looking increasingly vulnerable to the Omicron strain.