Date: 1st December 2022
In the wake of unprecedented protests, Beijing’s zero covid stance looks to be easing.
The strict pandemic rules have stymied industrial production all year and put a brake on shipping earnings.
However, following mass protests across the nation last weekend, the authorities do appear to be looking for a way to move on from the pandemic way of life.
Vice-premier and covid tsar yesterday held a meeting at the National Health Commission with experts and said: “With the weakening of the pathogenicity of the omicron virus, the popularisation of vaccination and the accumulation of prevention and control experience, China is facing a new situation and new tasks in epidemic prevention and control.”
Her comments follow an announcement earlier in the week that vaccinations among the country’s older population will increase, widely seen as a key move towards a reopening of the Chinese economy. Beijing has set hard targets for local governments whereby by the end of January, 90% of the people aged over 80 who meet the health criteria must be fully vaccinated and receive booster shots. The current number fully vaccinated is 68%, suggesting China is about to start a massive vaccination campaign.
Meanwhile, lockdown restrictions in key cities including Guangzhou and Chongqing have been lifted in the past 24 hours, while certain neighborhoods in the capital and elsewhere have instituted their own new form of domestic quarantines, something very different from earlier enforced lockdowns on entire areas.
“We believe that Chinese authorities are shifting to a ‘living with Covid’ stance, as reflected in new rules that allow people to do ‘home isolation’ instead of being ferried away to quarantine facilities,” ANZ Research analysts said in a note.
The founder of Breakwave Advisors commented that a potential relaxation of strict covid measures could lead to a revival of economic activity, leading to increased commodity demand and thus imports into the country.
“Such a development will positively affect shipping, as demand for ships to transport such commodities will increase,” he said.
The CEO of Monaco-based shipowner, GoodBulk described China’s covid restrictions as the “the 800-pound gorilla” which has been holding dry bulk back all year.
The risk of easing the rules could be a spike in infections, something that could have its own impact on supply chains.