Lockdowns affecting 373 million Chinese

Residents collect their orders of fruit from a group purchase delivered to their neighbourhood during a lockdown in Shanghai on Friday. The availability of many goods in Shanghai has been strained by clogged logistics and the lack of couriers to deliver supplies to people barred from leaving their homes.(Bloomberg Photo)

About 373 million people in 45 cities across China have come under some form of lockdown due to a surge in coronavirus cases, according to estimates by a Nomura International analysts in Hong Kong.

The figure amounts to 26.4% of the country’s total population, as the government in Beijing continues to pursue a radical zero-Covid policy, fuelling concerns that stringent measures could negatively affect the world’s second-largest economy and the global supply chain.

In the financial and commercial hub of Shanghai, many parts of which have been locked down since March 28, the number of infections recorded since the start of the curbs reached 314,000 on Friday.

According to Nomura, complete or partial lockdowns were in place in 45 Chinese cities as of Monday, up from 23 cities with a total population of 193 million a week earlier.

The 45 cities’ combined annual gross domestic product amounts to 46 trillion yuan (US$7.2 trillion), or 40.3% of the country’s economy.

In the areas under lockdown, residents have seen their movements restricted, with public transport, such as buses and subways, halted. In Shanghai, videos of scuffles between police and residents, frustrated with the strict isolation policy, went viral at one point, but they were later deleted.

The Japanese Consulate General in Shanghai said it has appealed on behalf of the plight of some 11,000 Japanese companies based in the city in a letter sent to the municipal government, saying the lockdown has “severely impacted” their operations and uncertainties over the measure have “greatly restricted” their activities.

The city of Xian has imposed steps to restrict the movement of its 13 million residents through next Tuesday after 43 infections were confirmed as of Friday, with commercial facilities asked to shut down.

China faces its toughest fight against the spread of the virus since the initial outbreak in the central city of Wuhan more than two years ago.