We’re covering the standstill in China’s housing market and flaws in Britain’s early pandemic response.
China’s housing market rattles buyers
For years, homes have been the main savings vehicle for Chinese families. Nearly three-quarters of household wealth in China is tied to property and real estate has grown to provide more than a quarter of the country’s economic growth by some estimates.
Now companies like Evergrande can’t afford to keep building. Some 1.6 million home buyers remain in limbo waiting for their apartments. Others are scared to put down money for apartments that might never be built.
“We are indeed seeing a very serious slowdown in the property market, with falling prices, sales and construction activity, and this is likely to drag down economic growth in the next couple of quarters,” said the director of an independent economic research firm.
Big picture: China’s 100 biggest real estate companies are expected to report that sales in September plummeted by more than a third compared with a year earlier.
Response: Beijing has been largely silent, but regulators have started to make moves to bolster the sector. The central bank has opened emergency spigots to make it easier for local banks to draw more money, just in case. Local governments have set up task forces to help manage the potential fallout.
Latest on Evergrande: On Monday, the company missed another round of interest payments on two U.S. dollar bonds, a person familiar with the matter said. Waiting for a lifeline, it halted trading of its shares last week in Hong Kong and announced the potential sale of a lucrative unit.
Report: Britain’s pandemic response killed thousands
Britain’s initial response to Covid-19 “ranks as one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced,” a parliamentary inquiry published Tuesday found, blaming the British government for “many thousands of deaths which could have been avoided.”
In effect, the report indicated, the government pursued an ill-conceived strategy of herd immunity when it failed to carry out widespread testing and delayed imposing lockdowns or border rules in the early months of the pandemic.
Officials’ assumption that British people would not accept lockdowns or contact tracing was “one of the critical things that was completely wrong,” said Dominic Cummings, a former chief adviser. It was only in late March 2020, with infections doubling every three days and the health system at risk of being overwhelmed, that Johnson ordered a nationwide lockdown.
Data: Britain has experienced one of the worst Covid-19 outbreaks among wealthy nations, with 162,000 deaths officially attributed to the disease. The report did praise the government’s vaccine strategy; 78.6 percent of people aged 12 and over have now received two doses.
In other developments:
Thailand announced that fully vaccinated travelers from low-risk countries including the U.S. and China may be allowed to visit without quarantining, starting Nov. 1.
China’s deadly floods
For the second time in three months, China is grappling with the aftermath of violent floods, caused by days of unusually intense rains that have left at least 28 people dead and displaced more than 120,000 across the northern parts of the country.
The death toll included 13 people who died after a commuter bus fell into a river on Monday from a flooded bridge near the northern city of Shijiazhuang, according to Chinese media reports. In Shanxi Province, China’s coal country, floods shut down 60 mines and destroyed at least 17,000 buildings.
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