SHANGHAI/BEIJING - China's commercial hub of Shanghai faces an unexpected round of mass COVID-19 testing for most residents this weekend - just 10 days after a city-wide lockdown was lifted - unsettling residents and raising concerns about the impact on business.
Racing to stop a wider outbreak after discovering a few cases in the community, authorities have ordered PCR testing for all residents in 14 of Shanghai's 16 districts over the weekend.
Some districts said residents would not be allowed to leave their homes while the testing was carried out. A notice issued Changning district described the stay home requirement as 'closed management' of the community being sampled.
The reactions of people on China's Twitter-like Weibo platform were a mixture of surprise and concern, with some asking how their plans for the weekend, such as moving house or seeing a doctor, would be affected. Many expressed fear they could be locked down again.
The move comes on top of already onerous testing requirements that Shanghai introduced for its 25 million residents after easing a city-wide lockdown on June 1.
Residents need prove that they have been tested within the last 72 hours to enter areas like malls and offices - or even to use subways and buses.
Many people have become frustrated about having to queue for hours to be tested at the thousands of booths scattered around the city.
Some parts of Shanghai had remained under or returned to lockdown shortly after June 1 due to positive cases and their close contacts. Three of the latest infections that led to several closures were traced to a popular beauty salon in the city centre.
Meanwhile, Beijing shut entertainment and internet venues in two of the capital's largest districts after tracing cases to a few bars.
While China's infection rate is low by global standards, President Xi Jinping has doubled down on a zero-COVID policy that authorities say is needed to protect the elderly and the medical system, even as other countries try to live with the virus.
Mainland China reported 151 new coronavirus cases for June 9, of which 45 were symptomatic and 106 were asymptomatic, the National Health Commission said on Friday.
Shanghai's earlier two-month lockdown fuelled widespread frustration, anger and even rare protests among its residents, as they grappled with lost incomes, the loss of freedom, the death of friends and relatives, and even hunger.
It also battered the Chinese economy, disrupted supply chains and slowed international trade, and the latest uncertainty has hit sentiment in financial markets.
The European Chamber of Commerce said offices belonging to its members were only operating at 30-50% capacity while factories were running at above 80%.
Bettina Schoen-Behanzin, Vice President of the European Chamber said European companies were becoming more cautious and rethinking future investments in China.
"We are still plagued by uncertainty with localised lockdowns, Schoen-Behanzin said. "Even if we go on from living in a bubble to living on a bubble, it is still a bubble that may burst at any minute."
(Reporting by Brenda Goh in Shanghai, Martin Pollard in Beijng and the Beijing and Shanghai Newsrooms; editing by Richard Pullin & Simon Cameron-Moore)