Shanghai’s two-month Covid-19 lockdown is still rippling through economy

SHANGHAI – Three months after Shanghai lifted an unprecedented Covid-19 lockdown that lasted more than 60 days, businesses in China’s richest and biggest consumer market are still struggling with a sluggish recovery as lingering restrictions continue to deter people from going about their normal lives.

Though city-wide curbs on movement were scrapped on June 1, the ordeal hasn’t ended altogether for Shanghai’s 25 million residents. China’s Covid-Zero policy still requires localised lockdowns of neighbourhoods and apartment blocks whenever cases emerge, making that quick trip to a shop or a mall challenging.

Then there’s the need for regular testing to use public transportation or to enter indoor spaces such as office buildings and restaurants, not to mention quarantine for as long as 14 days at a government facility in some instances.

As a result, demand for everything from dining out to movies and tourism are still far below pre-lockdown levels, while some indicators show Shanghai is taking longer to recover than Hong Kong and Singapore after rules were eased in those cities.

Retail sales in the city dropped 4.3 per cent in June from a year earlier and rose a meagre 0.3 per cent in July, following an average 35 per cent slump in the preceding three months starting March, when the outbreak began.

Ms Wang Yihan, owner of two role-playing game venues in the city, is praying for “no more Covid comeback”.

“It’s just so difficult to get enough cash flow,” she said, adding about 60 per cent of peers she knows have shut their businesses in recent months. “Even if we survive now, we can’t make it through if another lockdown comes.”

This is how Shanghai is reeling from the aftermath of the lockdown:

1. Impact on retail

Unlike Singapore or Hong Kong – even though these cities also placed strict social distancing rules – Shanghai’s recovery hasn’t been as swift when it comes to post-easing retail sales.

For instance, Hong Kong experienced a wave of outbreaks earlier this year, but started to gradually ease restrictions from late March by lifting flight bans, cutting quarantine days and allowing dine-in services. Monthly retail sales returned to growth in April right after.

In Singapore, where curbs also caused frustration among residents and businesses last year, growth barely stalled and accelerated immediately after the island-nation announced significant easing in March.