Beijing’s retail, industry upended by COVID restrictions

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People stand under a giant screen showing sales promotion during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday, ahead of the holiday at a shopping area in Beijing

BEIJING (Reuters) – The economy of China’s capital Beijing took a hit in April as authorities wrestled with a new COVID outbreak, telling residents to avoid going out or work from home and halting many businesses.

Retail sales in the city of nearly 22 million people, a key gauge of consumption, shrank 16.05% in April from a year earlier, according to Reuters calculations based on January-April data released by the city’s statistics bureau on Tuesday, outpacing the nation’s 11.1% contraction.

Industrial output fell 3.3% in the first four months compared with a 7.2% growth in the first quarter, the biggest cumulative drop since July 2020. The city’s statistics bureau did not publish data for April or offer comparative figures.

Property sales in Beijing nosedived by 25.83% last month, further pummelling an already struggling sector, despite more policy easing steps aimed at reviving what has traditionally been a key pillar of China’s economy.

Fixed-asset investment grew 8.9% in the first four months, slower than the 10.3% gain in January-March.

Beijing has chalked up more than 1,000 COVID cases since April 22. While the caseload is small by global standards, the government’s firm line on stamping out infections as quickly as they emerge has led to the closure of malls, gyms and schools. Part of the city’s public transport has also been halted.

On Sunday, city authorities extended guidance to work from home in four districts, including the largest, Chaoyang.

(Reporting by Ellen Zhang and Ryan Woo; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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