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Traffic jams return to Chinese cities driving up fuel demand

Beijing: Traffic is returning to the streets of China’s biggest cities as the nation emerges from a virus-led lockdown, prompting a boost in fuel consumption that’s supporting a recovery in refinery processing rates.

Traffic data over the past seven days in Beijing and Shenzhen — which are home to 34 million people combined — show that peak-hour congestion was heavier than the same period last year, while in Shanghai it was almost as crowded, according to TomTom International BV. The nation’s oil refiners have kept run rates in April at pre-outbreak levels after a recovery that began late last month.

Traffic backs up along a highway in Beijing last week.

Traffic backs up along a highway in Beijing last week.Credit:AP

Despite an expected gradual economic rebound, the public transport system is already moving the masses. Taxis, buses and private cars have been running at normal levels in 31 regions and cities since April 4, according to the Ministry of Transport. Crude processing rates by the nation’s refiners are also getting a boost from people operating trucks and returning to construction sites, which is increasing consumption of diesel, according to senior officials at the nation’s top refiners.

Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, emerged from a months-long lockdown in early April, but social distancing in schools and face masks are still compulsory in other cities to prevent a second wave of infections.

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