China’s Covid lockdowns are having a lessening impact on its economy

Finance

Pictured here are locals on a subway in Zhengzhou city, Henan province, on Dec. 5, 2022, after the municipality said negative nucleic acid test results are no longer needed to ride public transportation.
Vcg | Visual China Group | Getty Images

BEIJING — China’s Covid lockdowns are having a lessening impact on the economy for the first time since early October, according to Nomura.

However, analysts at the Japanese bank warned that the road ahead will be challenging as China doesn’t appear to be ready for a spike in infections.

As of Monday, the negative impact of China’s Covid controls on its economy fell to 19.3% of China’s total GDP — down from 25.1% a week ago, Nomura’s Chief China Economist Ting Lu and a team said in a report.

Last week’s 25.1% figure was higher than that seen during the two-month Shanghai lockdown in the spring, according to Nomura’s model. In early October, the figure was far lower, near 4%.

In the last several days, local governments have relaxed some virus testing requirements, allowing people in cities such as Beijing and Zhengzhou to take public transportation without having to show proof of a negative test result.

China does not appear to be well prepared for a massive wave of Covid infections, and it may have to pay for its procrastination on embracing a ‘living with Covid’ approach.
Nomura

If they test positive for Covid-19, Beijing residents at least are increasingly being quarantined at home instead of being made to do so at a centralized facility.

As of Tuesday morning, Beijing city said proof of a negative Covid test from within two or three days was no longer required to enter public areas such as malls. But the level of initial implementation varied.

China has shown signs that gradual easing of its stringent Covid controls could be on its way. The country trimmed quarantine times in mid-November. Last week, a vice premier downplayed the severity of the Omicron variant.

However, the country also reported a surge in virus infections which reached daily record highs in the last few weeks. The case count has subsided in recent days, amid a decline in mandatory virus testing.

“Ending zero Covid is encouraging and should be quite positive for markets, but we caution that the road to reopening may be gradual, painful and bumpy,” the Nomura analysts said.

“Despite the substantial resources devoted to the heavy-handed ZCS over the past two years, China does not appear to be well prepared for a massive wave of Covid infections, and it may have to pay for its procrastination on embracing a ‘living with Covid’ approach.”

Covid controls vary widely by cities and districts within China. More restaurants in Guangzhou city can resume dine-in, while most in Beijing only offer take out.

Schools in both cities remain largely online.

About 452.5 million people are affected by current lockdown measures, albeit down from a far higher 528.6 million a week earlier, the Nomura analysts said.

While those numbers surpass the population of many countries, they only reflect about a third of China’s.

— This story has been updated to reflect that Beijing no longer requires proof of a negative Covid test from within two or three days to enter some public places.

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