‘Hard to believe this is actually happening’: Shanghai to lift COVID lockdown

  • Shanghai removes lockdown fencing and police tape
  • Containment should end at midnight after two months
  • Many fear catching COVID, risks of another lockdown

SHANGHAI, May 31 (Reuters) – Authorities in Shanghai began tearing down fences around housing compounds on Tuesday and tearing down police tape in squares and public buildings ahead of the lifting of a two-day lockdown. month in China’s largest city at midnight.

On Monday evening, some people who were allowed out of their compounds for brief walks took advantage of the suspended traffic to congregate over beer and ice cream in deserted streets. But there was a sense of mistrust and anxiety among residents.

“I feel a little nervous,” said Joseph Mak, who works in education. “It’s hard to believe this is actually happening.”

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Most will be stuck indoors again until midnight, as they have been for the past two months under a strictly enforced lockdown that has caused loss of income, stress and desperation for people with hardship. difficulty accessing food or obtaining emergency health care.

The prolonged isolation has fueled public anger and rare protests inside the city of 25 million and has battered its manufacturing and export economy, disrupted supply chains in China and around the world and slowed international trade.

Life is expected to return to something more normal from Wednesday, when passes issued by apartment buildings for people to go outside for a few hours will be scrapped, public transport will resume and residents can return to work.

“It’s a day we’ve been dreaming of for a very long time,” Shanghai government spokeswoman Yin Xin told reporters.

“Everyone has sacrificed a lot. It was a hard-won day, and we must cherish it and protect it, and welcome back the Shanghai we know and have missed.”

Near a stream in Shanghai on Tuesday, a pickled goose shop was restocking shelves, a bar was carrying out last-minute renovations and cleaners were scrubbing store windows.

Curbs will be eased for around 22.5 million people in low-risk areas. Residents should still wear masks and avoid gatherings. Dining inside restaurants is prohibited. Stores can operate at 75% capacity. Gyms will reopen later. Read more

Residents will have to test themselves every 72 hours to use public transport and enter public places. A tough quarantine is still in store for anyone who catches COVID and their close contacts.

LOCK-ATTENTION

China is alone among major countries in implementing a “zero COVID” policy of eradicating epidemics at all costs.

Julian MacCormac, speaker of the British Chamber in China, said Shanghai had brought COVID under control at “very significant personal and economic cost”.

“What has materially changed to ensure this won’t happen again?” he asked. “Therein lies the uncertainty.”

Todd Pearson, chief executive of Camel Hospitality Group, which operates restaurants, bars and gyms in and around Shanghai, is wary.

His restaurants can only do deliveries, which bring in around 5% of revenue, not enough to pay salaries and rent. At least from midnight, its workers who slept there can finally go home.

“Hopefully they rush things to get the economy going again,” Pearson said. “I just hope it’s not at the cost of more outbreaks. I’m not sure many companies or people can handle much more.”

Economic activity in China picked up somewhat in May after a dismal April as COVID restrictions in manufacturing hubs were gradually eased, although movement controls still depressed demand and limited production . Read more

FUN WITH FLAGS

Shanghai reported 31 cases as of May 30, down from 67 a day earlier, reflecting a downward trend across China to less than 200 infections nationwide.

The end of Shanghai’s lockdown does not mean a return to pre-COVID lifestyles.

Some bank workers said they will have to wear full hazmat suits and face shields when they start facing the public from Wednesday. One said he would take basic supplies to work, in case a colleague tested positive and staff were forced to self-isolate in the office.

The city’s handling of the lockdown has prompted rare protests, with people sometimes banging pots and pans outside their windows to show their displeasure.

“The Shanghai government should issue a public apology in order to win the understanding and support of the people of Shanghai and repair the damaged relationship between the government and the people,” said Qu Weiguo, a teacher at the foreign language school. from Fudan University. published on WeChat.

The displays of resentment come in a sensitive year for President Xi Jinping, who is expected to secure a third term as leader this fall.

A resort hung a Chinese flag for residents to take photos as they lined up for another PCR test ahead of reopening.

“It’s worth celebrating,” said one volunteer at the testing site, who was more upbeat about COVID than those getting their noses swabbed. “We probably won’t have it in the rest of our lives.”

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Additional reporting by David Stanway, Winni Zhou, Brenda Goh, Yifan Wang, David Kirton, Albee Zhang, Stella Qiu and Beijing and Shanghai bureaus; Written by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry and Angus MacSwan

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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