Beijing and Shanghai begin to reopen as Covid cases drop

After about two months of confinement, Shanghai announced this weekend its intention to ease restrictions on business activities. Metro riders pictured here on May 28, 2022 ride one of the city’s four lines that have resumed operations.

CGV | Visual Group China | Getty Images

BEIJING — Major Chinese cities Beijing and Shanghai began easing Covid controls over the weekend as local case numbers dwindled.

Nationally, the number of new cases with symptoms on the mainland fell to 20 on Sunday, from 54 a day earlier. The capital, Beijing, reported eight new Covid cases on Sunday, while Shanghai recorded six.

The easing of restrictions comes about two months after Shanghai, China’s largest city, ordered people to stay in their apartments for mass virus testing. The city of Beijing had started to tighten Covid controls about a month ago, but only locked down certain neighborhoods.

On Sunday, authorities in Shanghai said businesses could start reopening without having to seek approval from Wednesday. A shopping area called Xintiandi – including a local Shake Shack – was among those set to resume some offline operations on Wednesday, according to state media.

The city also announced a series of measures to support businesses, especially those that have suffered minimal layoffs. To boost consumption, the city said it would give 10,000 yuan ($1,493) to anyone switching to a battery-powered car this year.

On Sunday, Shanghai claimed that only 220,000 people remained under the most restrictive stay-at-home orders and more than 22 million were allowed to venture out into the community.

In Beijing, major shopping malls, including a luxury mall that temporarily closed a month ago due to Covid, have announced they will reopen from Sunday. Hotels on the rural outskirts of the capital could also reopen. An amusement park called Happy Valley Beijing announced plans to reopen on Tuesday.

Carpooling and most public transport have resumed in the main business district, while more people have been allowed to return to work. Some libraries, museums and gymnasiums could reopen at half capacity, if no Covid cases have been discovered in the past seven days at the community level.

However, restaurants in Beijing can still only operate on a take-out or delivery basis, with no customers dining inside. Middle and primary schools remain closed.

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After the latest Covid outbreak, Shanghai and Beijing require a valid negative virus test to enter public spaces. In Beijing, test results are only valid for 48 hours, while in Shanghai, from Wednesday, test results will be valid for 72 hours.

It remains unclear how quickly most businesses will be able to resume normal production, as the implementation of Covid measures may vary at the neighborhood level. Any new confirmed cases of Covid or contact with one may lead to a further tightening.

Clients in Beijing are “questioning the extent of the rebound in growth” even after an easing of Covid controls, Goldman Sachs analysts said in a report on Sunday.

“Local customers are concerned about the scarring effects of anti-pandemic measures and slowing growth, which include heightened uncertainties around the economic and political outlook, higher bankruptcies and high unemployment rates,” said the analysts.

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