Second wave of Covid-19 outbreak causes plunge in Beijing's road traffic
The amount on vehicles on Beijing roads has fallen sharply this week as authorities attempt to quell a new coronavirus outbreak, highlighting the danger for energy demand if it can’t be brought under control.
Traffic congestion in the Chinese capital was 29% at 8 a.m. Thursday (June 18) during morning rush hour, according to data from navigation company TomTom International BV. That compares with 67% at the same time a week earlier and 62% for average levels at that time during 2019.
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The number of new infections from the outbreak that started at a wholesale fruit and vegetable market has now surpassed 150. The city has closed schools, imposed restrictions in residential compounds and canceled flights to contain the epidemic, which has already spread to at least four other provinces.
Investors are watching anxiously to see if authorities can tamp down the outbreak without having to resort to measures that brought much of the Chinese economy to a standstill earlier in the year. Fuel demand in Asia’s largest economy has recovered rapidly since then, providing crucial support to global oil prices when consumption in the rest of the world was falling.
Traffic levels have became a barometer for the recovery in oil demand over the past few months and there were signs that in China people were opting to commute by car to avoid potential exposure to the virus on public transport.
Beijing has so far refrained from the citywide lockdowns that China employed to stem the spread of Covid-19 in Wuhan and in the northeast region in a bid to minimize disruption to the country’s most important city. Officials are instead relying on an aggressive contact tracing campaign to identify and isolate people who had contact with the market.