A resident is undergoing a Covid-19 coronavirus test as part of a mass test program in the basement of a residential area after new cases of the virus emerged on January 12, 2021 in Shijiazhuang, central China’s Hebei Province.
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BEIJING – Local authorities in areas near Beijing tighten restrictions on social activities as coronavirus cases rise.
The city of Langfang, which is about 1.5 hours south of downtown Beijing, urged its nearly 5 million residents on Tuesday to stay home for the next seven days. The city is located in Hebei, the same province as Shijiazhuang, a city of 11 million that closed late last week after a surge in coronavirus cases.
Shijiazhuang reported 39 new confirmed cases on Monday while Langfang disclosed one. This brings the total number of currently confirmed and asymptomatic cases in Hebei Province to more than 500 people.
Separately, two regions in the northernmost Chinese province of Heilongjiang announced lockdowns on Tuesday. The province reported one new confirmed case and 36 asymptomatic cases for Monday.
Beijing reported a confirmed case on Monday. Since mid-December, the city has reported a handful of cases in close succession, leading to tighter restrictions on some residential complexes and mass testing on the outskirts of the country’s capital.
It was not immediately clear to what extent the local economy would be affected as there was no official order to stop work. Heilongjiang accounted for just over 1% of China’s GDP in 2019, and Hebei about 3.6%. Neither of the two provinces is as economically important as the one in southeast China.
Representatives from European and American business associations in China said members were not significantly affected by the recent surge in virus cases. Economic activity generally slows in late January through February as hundreds of millions of workers return to their hometown for the New Year celebrations.
However, some provinces have started to announce bans on large-scale gatherings and events. The central government is encouraging people to remain in custody during the New Year holiday, which officially takes place in mid-February this year.
“The worsening coronavirus situation will affect economic activity and markets may need to soften expectations for strong pent-up consumer demand in the upcoming LNY holidays in mid-February,” Ting Lu, Nomura’s chief economist, said in a statement on Monday .
“With the virus situation worsening and the coldest winter in decades, the growth recovery has lost some of its momentum in recent weeks,” he said. “A full recovery in the services sector could be delayed, as weaker PMI indices for services suggest in December.”
Both official and private polls for the past month showed that the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for services remained in the expansion area but declined from November.
China’s economy contracted 6.8% in the first quarter of last year when authorities shut down more than half of the country to control the outbreak.
WHO team begins investigation
Covid-19 first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. Authorities locked the city until the end of January 2020, but the disease soon spread to the rest of the world in a global pandemic. The coronavirus has since infected more than 90 million people and killed over 1.9 million people worldwide.
A team from the World Health Organization will come to China on Thursday to study the origins of the virus with local scientists. WHO said the study would begin in Wuhan.
A separate WHO team is working with manufacturers of Covid-19 vaccines from the Chinese pharmaceutical companies Sinovac and Sinopharm “to assess compliance with international quality manufacturing practices before the WHO lists potential emergencies,” said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Beijing has resisted the idea that Covid-19 came from China. After the domestic spread of the virus stalled in March last year, authorities have blamed foreign sources for later spikes.
For the most recent outbreak, Hebei Province started reporting cases about 10 days ago. On Sunday, an epidemiologist from the provincial disease control center told reporters that the cases likely came from foreign sources that were in contact with the province prior to December 15.