After two months, a scarred Shanghai's Covid-19 lockdown ends

1/6/2022 5:45:00 AM

After two months, a scarred Shanghai's Covid-19 lockdown ends

After two months, a scarred Shanghai's Covid-19 lockdown ends

SHANGHAI — Following two months of frustration, despair and economic loss, Shanghai's draconian Covid-19 lockdown ended at midnight on Wednesday (June 1) morning, prompting celebrations tempered with fear that an outbreak could return.

Most of Shanghai's 25 million residents can now freely leave home, return to work, use public transport and drive their cars — a moment that for many in China's largest and most cosmopolitan city felt like it would never arrive.Copy to clipboard https://str.from Wednesday, as the number of infections across China dropped.Some in Beijing back to work, Shanghai inches closer to ending COVID-19 lockdown Todd Pearson, managing director of Camel Hospitality Group, which operates eight restaurants, four bars and three gyms in Shanghai and neighbouring Suzhou, is wary.

At midnight, small groups gathered in the city's former French Concession neighbourhood whistled, shouted"ban lifted" and clinked glasses of champagne.Earlier, streets were lively as residents picnicked on grassy patches and children rode bikes down carless roads.The city will resume taxi and ride hailing services while allowing cars onto roads in low-risk areas, the municipal government said in a statement on Monday (May 30).Dancing retirees, a common evening sight in Chinese cities, strutted their stuff for the first time in months in open air plazas and along the Huangpu river.The tough COVID-19 curbs, and especially the strict lockdown on China's most populous city, have pummelled the world's second-largest economy, disrupting global supply chains and international trade.Shanghai Disneyland, which has yet to announce a reopening date, livestreamed a lightshow to"celebrate the lifting of Shanghai's lockdown".The measures signal some of the most significant easing on movement for a sizeable part of Shanghai's residents after nearly two months of lockdown.They used a Chinese expression that also means"ban" that city officials have avoided.I’m not sure many businesses or the people could handle much more.

Under streetlamps, barbers gave haircuts to residents who had grown shaggy under lockdown.Local residents reacted to the news with cheers and songs and some set off electronic fireworks to celebrate.Libraries, museums, theatres and gyms were allowed to reopen on Sunday, though with limits on numbers of people, in districts that have seen no community COVID-19 cases for seven consecutive days.On the WeChat social media platform, shops announced their reopening plans."I walked the dog and the dog is pretty excited, because it has been a really long time for it to come outside," said Ms Melody Dong, who was looking forward to eating hot pot and barbecue — foods that are difficult to make at home.While Shanghai started to ease movement restrictions earlier this month, millions of residents found they were still confined to their housing complexes or allowed out only briefly as neighborhood committees around the city imposed strict and arbitrary curbs on movement amid concern about a rebound in cases.Shanghai's ordeal has come to symbolise what critics say is the unsustainability of China's adherence to a zero-Covid policy that aims to cut off every infection chain, at any cost, even as much of the world tries to return to normal despite ongoing infections.Businesses were told they can resume operations, but most residents have not been told when they can leave their housing compounds, much of public transport remains suspended, and no private cars are allowed on the roads without prior approval.The lack of a roadmap to exit from an approach that is increasingly challenged by the highly contagious Omicron variant has rattled investors and frustrated businesses.Infections fell to 67 on Sunday, about half the level of the day before.Other countries, which have decided to co-exist with the virus even as infections spread, are reporting tens of thousands of new cases daily.

Covid curbs in Shanghai and numerous other Chinese cities have battered the world's second-largest economy and tangled global supply chains, although case numbers have improved and curbs have eased from the depths of April's lockdowns.China says its approach, a signature policy of President Xi Jinping, is needed to save lives and prevent its healthcare system from being swamped.With nearly all of the recent new cases found in government-mandated quarantine instead of the community, the latest easing announcement will mean the end of the lockdown for most of the city's residents.On Sunday, Shanghai authorities said they will remove "unreasonable" conditions for businesses to resume work from Wednesday and announced 50 policy measures to support the economy.The uncertainty and discontent caused by China's Covid management has created unwanted turbulence in a sensitive political year, with Mr Xi poised to secure a third leadership term in the autumn."The mood tonight is a bit like high school days.With economic growth faltering, the city has pushed local enterprises to resume productions and announced accelerated approvals for property projects and incentives for car buyers among other moves.On the eve of the school year I was full of expectations for the new semester but I feel a little uneasy in my heart," wrote one user of the Twitter-like Weibo.There were no specific details about which restrictions on businesses would be removed.Just in case," Qin said.

A CITY SCARRED During two months, numerous residents of the country's most important financial and economic hub struggled to get enough food or medical care.Families were separated and hundreds of thousands were forced into centralised quarantine facilities.At the factories and offices that remained open — including those of Shanghai government officials — workers lived on-site in"closed-loops", bunking on makeshift beds, with many of them only now able to return home.Shanghai, Beijing and other cities in China have made significant progress in bringing daily caseloads lower, but uncertainty remains high, as the highly-transmissible Omicron variant is prone to making comebacks.Curbs were lifted for about 22.5 million people in low-risk areas."Probably we won’t have it again in the rest of our lives.

Residents must still wear masks in public and avoid gatherings.Goldman Sachs economists said they could discuss China's zero-COVID policy in only one out of more than 10 recent meetings with clients in Beijing,"potentially due to its political sensitivity".Restaurant dining remains banned.Shops can operate at 75 per cent capacity.Gyms will reopen later.The Chinese government is on track to spend more than US$52 billion this year on testing, new medical facilities, monitoring equipment and other anti-COVID measures, which will benefit as many as 3,000 companies, analysts say.Residents will have to test every 72 hours to take public transport and enter public venues, heralding what may become a"new normal" in many Chinese cities.

Those testing positive, and their close contacts, face onerous quarantines.During lockdown, Shanghai residents staged rare protests, banging on pots and pans from their windows and evading censors to vent on China's heavily policed social media.Related:.Frustrations stemmed from the lockdown itself as well as heavy-handed and often uneven enforcement and unclear communication."The Shanghai government needs to make a public apology in order to obtain the understanding and support of the people of Shanghai and repair the damaged relationship between the government and the people," Dr Qu Weiguo, a professor at Fudan University's school of foreign languages, posted on WeChat.On Tuesday, the city's largest quarantine facility — a 50,000-bed section of the National Exhibition & Convention Center — discharged the last two of the 174,308 Covid-postive cases who had been housed there.

It declared itself shut.REUTERS Related topics.

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