Oil prices drop further as mass COVID-19 testing begins in China

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Brent crude futures fell 37 cents (30 pence), or 0.4 percent, to $104.95 (£83.88) a barrel. US West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 27 cents (22 pence), or 0.3 percent, to $101.75 (£81.32) a barrel.

China’s capital Beijing reported 48 new symptomatic and 2 new asymptomatic COVID-19 cases for April 27, state broadcaster CCTV reported on Thursday.

The city recorded 31 symptomatic cases a day earlier and three asymptomatic ones, as it began a mass testing program aimed at containing a new outbreak.

Authorities in Beijing are continuing to crack down on COVID-19 outbreaks and trying to avert the city-wide lockdown that has shrouded Shanghai for a month.

China’s Hangzhou city of 12.2 million people, home to e-commerce giant Alibaba, will conduct mass Covid testing from April 28, state media reported on Wednesday.

Adding support to the market are concerns about tight worldwide energy supply following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions slapped on Moscow by the United States and its allies.

Russian energy giant Gazprom said on Wednesday it halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland.

British major Shell said it would no longer accept refined oil blended with Russian products, according to trading documents, while Exxon Mobil said it had declared force majeure on its Sakhalin-1 operations in the far eastern part of Russia.

Meanwhile, Shanghai, the most populous city in China, has been under lockdown for the past month as it pursues a “zero-Covid” strategy for eradicating the virus.

The country’s approach aims to cut transmission as soon as possible, using stringent measures such as short and targeted shutdowns and quick testing schemes where cases are found.

Despite this, cases of the highly transmissible Omicron variant have risen in Shanghai and other cities over the past month.

While there have been reports of hospitals in Shanghai being overwhelmed by cases, deaths from COVID-19 still remain very low.

Since the outbreak of cases in March this year, at least 190 people have died with COVID-19 in the city of 25 million people.

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As a proportion of its population, this figure is well below the current Covid death rate in the UK and US.

China had not reported a single death for a year until the recent outbreak in March.

Scientists have attributed its success to its zero-tolerance policy for infections and high vaccination rates.

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