China's Hangzhou starts mass Covid-19 testing, Shanghai cases drop

Hangzhou's municipal government urged residents to get tested every 48 hours. PHOTO: AFP

SHANGHAI (BLOOMBERG) - The Chinese city of Hangzhou, home to tech giant Alibaba Group, will start mass testing for Covid-19, while cases in Shanghai fell for a fifth day.

The testing drive will cover most of Hangzhou's downtown area, with 10,000 free test sites to be set up, the municipal government said in a statement late on Wednesday (April 28). It urged residents to get tested every 48 hours.

Just a short train ride from Shanghai, the city of around 12 million people is home to a small but notable network of tech companies, including games maker NetEase and video-surveillance product company Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology.

It's also the base of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, the carmaker owned by billionaire auto titan Li Shufu and Nongfu Spring, the bottled drinks company owned by China's richest man Zhong Shanshan.

Meanwhile, twin outbreaks in Shanghai and Beijing continued to show some signs of stabilising.

Coronavirus infections in Shanghai fell to 10,662 on Wednesday, the lowest in more than three weeks. Fifty cases were reported in Beijing yesterday, where a mass-testing drive has been rolled out to identify and squash Omicron's spread before it spirals out of control.

The port cities of Qingdao and Qinhuangdao have also announced partial lockdowns, moves that could further worsen global supply chain snarls as local governments take swift measures to stifle Covid-19 flareups. 

China's dogged pursuit of Covid Zero, as the rest of the world lives with the virus and dismantles restrictions, has seen it slide in Bloomberg's Covid Resilience Ranking of where the pandemic is being handled best with the least economic and social disruption.

Highly ranked in the first year-and-a-half of the pandemic, China has slipped to 51st among the 53 major economies tracked, with just Russia and the territory of Hong Kong scoring lower, dragged down by its increasing reliance on restrictions like lockdowns and its effectively closed international border.

While Shanghai remains in an unprecedented lockdown that's left much of the city's 25 million residents confined to their homes for a month or more, an official signalled on Wednesday there may be some easing for certain areas.

Limited groups of people in districts with basically no community spread will be permitted limited movement Zhao Dandan, vice-director of the municipal health commission, said at a briefing.

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