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Anti-lockdown protests hit China amid rise in daily infections

Over the weekend, multiple protests have broken out across China, including in major cities Beijing and Shanghai, calling for COVID-19 lockdowns to end and, in some cases, for President Xi Jinping to step down. The public dissent from Chinese citizens is significant, marking the first time since President Xi Jinping took power ten years ago that such levels of defiance have been shown. The tipping point seems to have come on November 24 after a residential fire in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, resulted in 10 deaths and nine injured, with severe COVID-19 lockdown measures allegedly hindering firefighting operations and exacerbating the death toll.

Both incidents can be attributed to the increasingly criticized zero-COVID strategy that Chinese authorities continue to enforce despite the recent publication of a 20-point guideline committed to easing some of the most stringent COVID-19 restrictions. China is seeing a spike in cases attributed to the current Omicron variant spreading throughout China.

Since November 1, the number of daily new COVID-19 cases in China has significantly increased. The seven-day moving average from November 21-28 was approximately 5.4 times higher than between November 1-7. Similarly, the latest figures for asymptomatic cases in China highlight an increase by approximately 14 times since the beginning of November.

Lockdowns likely to continue ahead of winter season

On November 11, Chinese authorities detailed 20 key parameters to guide officials on the ground to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks. Many viewed the 20 key parameters as the Chinese government gradually easing COVID-19 measures nationwide. However, with the recent uptick in cases, it is unlikely that China will make sweeping changes to its zero-COVID strategy, despite protests and growing frustrations from the public to end lockdowns and open up. On November 27, the People’s Daily newspaper reported that authorities would continue to stick to existing measures to control the spread of the virus.

Moreover, the Chinese government faces the challenge of having to balance the economy, while at the same time addressing the growing dissent from the public and controlling the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. Due to low vaccination rates, the healthcare system would be at risk of being overwhelmed should daily case rates rise significantly ahead of the winter season.

As a result, supply chain disruptions are expected to continue in China until the government makes sweeping changes to its zero-COVID strategy approach. Industries in the manufacturing and logistics sectors will likely experience the most impact on their operations.

Besides the manufacturing industry, logistic companies are also affected by the lockdown measures. Demand for deliveries has increased under the tightened curbs, but there is insufficient manpower to meet the demand.

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