Shanghai edges closer to COVID reopening as Beijing plans to ease restrictions

  • Shanghai basically aims to end lockdown from Wednesday
  • City of 25 million under strict restrictions for two months

SHANGHAI, May 28 (Reuters) – China’s metropolis of Shanghai moved closer to a gradual reopening after two months of a COVID-19 lockdown, as officials in Beijing prepared to ease restrictions in parts of the capital , saying on Saturday that his epidemic was under control.

Shanghai is essentially aiming to end its lockdown from Wednesday after easing restrictions over the past week.

More people have been allowed out of their homes and more businesses have been allowed to reopen, although most residents remain largely confined to their homes, with shops mostly limited to deliveries.

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Shanghai officials have called for continued vigilance, even though the vast majority of its 25 million people live in areas that fall into the low-risk “prevention” category.

“Wear masks in public, no gatherings, and keep social distancing,” Zhao Dandan, deputy director of the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission, told a daily press conference.

Videos on social media showed Friday night revelers, many of them foreigners, drinking and dancing in the street in a central area of ​​the city before police interrupted them and told them to go home.

Another video showed a band on the street singing a moving 1985 pop anthem titled “Tomorrow Will Be Better”, accompanied by a keyboardist. The police can be seen arriving and letting the song end before asking people to go home, prompting praise online for the police restraint.

The two-month lockdown in China’s largest and most cosmopolitan city has frustrated and infuriated residents, hundreds of thousands of whom have been quarantined in often overcrowded central facilities.

Many of them struggled to access enough food or medical care during the first weeks of the lockdown.

‘UNDER CONTROL’

In Beijing, new cases trended down for six days, with no new infections outside quarantine areas reported on Friday.

The outbreak that began on April 22 is “effectively under control,” a city government spokesman told a news conference.

Starting Sunday, shopping malls, libraries, museums, theaters and gymnasiums will be allowed to reopen, with limits on the number of people, in eight of Beijing’s 16 districts that have had no community cases. for seven consecutive days.

Two of the districts will end work-from-home rules, while public transport will largely resume in three districts, including Chaoyang, the city’s largest. Yet eating out in restaurants remains banned across the city.

As the number of cases nationwide improves, China’s strict adherence to its “zero-COVID” strategy has devastated the world’s second-largest economy and rattled global supply chains.

Investors are worried about the lack of a roadmap to exit what has been President Xi Jinping’s signature policy.

The economic impact was evident in Friday’s data showing April profits for industrial companies fell 8.5% a year, the biggest drop in two years. Read more

China’s approach, which the government says is necessary to save lives and prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed, has been challenged by the hard-to-contain Omicron variant.

The conflict between beating the spread of COVID and supporting the economy comes in a politically sensitive year, with Xi set to secure an unprecedented third term in office at a ruling Communist Party congress in the fall.

At an emergency meeting on Wednesday, Premier Li Keqiang acknowledged weak growth and said economic hardship had been worse in some ways than in 2020, when China was initially hit by COVID. -19. His remarks raised market expectations for further economic support measures.

SMALL STEPS

On Friday, the district of Fengxian, a suburb of Shanghai, canceled the requirement for residents to have a pass to go out.

The state-run Shanghai Securities News reported modest steps towards a return to normalcy for the financial sector, with the more than 10,000 bankers and traders who have been living and working in their offices since the start of the lockdown gradually returning at their home.

The country reported 362 daily coronavirus cases on Saturday, up from 444 a day earlier. In Beijing, new Friday infections fell to 24 from 29.

As Shanghai officials reported a community-level case in Songjiang district, they expressed confidence in the steps they were taking to trace and control the chain of infection.

“If these measures are implemented effectively, we can prevent the epidemic from rebounding even if there are sporadic cases, so don’t worry,” said Sun Xiaodong, deputy director of the Center for Control and Prevention. Shanghai diseases.

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Reporting by Samuel Shen, Jason Xue, Engen Tham and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Written by Tony Munroe; Editing by William Mallard and Helen Popper

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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