The Chinese capital of Beijing is nervously returning back to normal operations despite threats of a possible lockdown. Residents of the city, which has a population of more than 25 million people, are now returning to work after a muted five-day Labor Day holiday that left most people stuck at home amid the nation's "zero tolerance" policy against the spread of COVID-19.
Residents typically celebrate China's Labor Day holidays with trips to domestic locations and lavish family dinners. The long holiday is also typically the most lucrative time for businesses such as hotels and restaurants. However, things were significantly different this year as the nation battled a new spread of the disease.
Government data showed that spending from travelers from less restrictive regions during the holidays was down 43% when compared to last year. The figure underscored the impact of the lockdowns in some parts of the country, particularly the city-wide lockdown in China's commercial hub of Shanghai.
Beijing authorities, who have already closed restaurants, gyms, and other public venues, as well as certain residential structures, want to avoid a repeat of the situation in Shanghai, where the lockdowns had lasted for more than a month. The streets of the capital were less congested than on a typical working day, as officials urged people to work from home and closed a number of bus and metro lines.
However, China's efforts to eradicate COVID, which contrast with the rest of the world's efforts to open up and live with the condition, have sparked rare public criticism at home. Some residents have demanded that the government find other ways to resolve the issue that would lessen the impact on the economy.
Following a meeting of China's highest decision-making body, state television announced that the government was still committed to implementing its anti-COVID policies. It added that relaxing COVID-19 measures would only lead to large-scale infections, which would not be good for the country as a whole.
On Thursday, a Shanghai official stated that the government is having trouble finding the right balance between preventing diseases and allowing businesses to restart operations. There appeared to be a significant gap between top-down advice and ground enforcement for the city's residents, most of whom are still under lockdown.
On Sunday in Shanghai, Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan suggested that towns with no new cases over the past seven days should be allowed to return to normal operations. However, some of these communities only allow one household member out for a few hours each day. Even though the community's risk rating has officially decreased, no one is allowed to leave.