BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) – China is battling Covid-19 in every province despite its use of the world’s strictest measures to keep the virus out.

All 31 mainland provinces recorded at least one local Covid-19 case over the past ten days, reflecting the broadest exposure to the virus since at least February 2021, when national health authorities began disclosing detailed records on where asymptomatic infections were occurring daily.

The widening spread of coronavirus creates challenges for local leaders, even as China’s latest wave is easing, since snap lockdowns and strict mitigation measures are often used to contain small flareups.

There were 1,717 new local infections reported for Monday (Aug 29), down from more than 3,000 less than two weeks ago, as major outbreaks in some of the country’s most popular tourist destinations were brought under control.

“Despite a decline in headline Covid cases, the actual Covid situation in China might be worsening, as Omicron has once again spread to large cities,” Ting Lu, chief China economist at Nomura Holdings wrote in a note on Monday. “Markets could once again be hit in the next couple of weeks, likely triggering another round of cuts by economists on the street,” if the cities step up their containment measures, he said.

Already economists are downgrading their China growth forecasts for 2022 to 3.5 per cent and see further strain for next year, according to Bloomberg’s latest quarterly survey.

Confidence in China among American firms fell to a record low, leading many to delay or cancel investment in the world’s second-largest economy, according to a survey from the US-China Business Council.

Latest restrictions

The southern technology hub of Shenzhen locked down at least six neighbourhoods in two major districts, and Chengdu, one of the biggest cities in western China, closed major public venues and postponed school reopening.

In the northeast, the port city of Dalian is strictly limiting movement in a handful of downtown districts for five days, with buses, subways and in-person classes halted after 15 local cases were reported for Sunday.

Restrictions are also increasing in areas around Beijing, with mass testing for the nearby port city of Tianjin, ahead of a key meeting of the Communist Party’s top leaders.

In the past 10 days, the western province of Tibet and the tropical island of Hainan reported the most infections, while northeastern Jilin had the fewest with just one case.