Shanghai begins to come back to life as COVID lockdown eases

SHANGHAI– Shanghai residents toured the waterfront Bund and ate and drank along streets patrolled by police early Wednesday as residents of China’s largest city relished the easing of its tough two-month lockdown against the COVID-19.

The lockdown has set back the national economy and largely confined millions of people to their homes, while its ruthless and often chaotic enforcement has sparked protests in person and online that are rarely seen under the strict authoritarian government of the China.

Full bus and metro service will be restored on Wednesday, as will basic rail connections to the rest of China. Yet more than half a million people in the city of 25 million are still under lockdown or in designated control areas as cases of the virus are still being detected.

The government says all restrictions will be gradually lifted, but local neighborhood committees still have considerable power to implement sometimes contradictory and arbitrary policies.

This has not deterred people from gathering outside to eat and drink under the watchful eye of police deployed to discourage the formation of large crowds.

Cao Yue, who works in the hard-hit travel industry, said it was a joy to see “a lot of happy people around me on the street”.

Cao said the last two months of confinement have been a depressing experience.

“At the start of the lockdown, my heart was hard because I didn’t know what to do and it was difficult to buy food at first,” she said. “It was quite depressing being locked up at home and seeing the whole of Shanghai under lockdown.”

Lu Kexin, a high school student visiting the Bund for the first time since late March, said she had gone mad from being trapped at home for so long. “I’m very happy, extremely happy, all the way, too happy,” she said.

Schools will partially reopen on a voluntary basis, and malls, supermarkets, convenience stores and pharmacies will gradually reopen to no more than 75% of full capacity. Cinemas and sports halls will remain closed.

On Wednesday, health authorities reported just 15 new COVID-19 cases in Shanghai, down from a record high of around 20,000 daily cases in April. In recent days, government officials seemed poised to speed up what has been a gradual easing of the lockdown.

A few malls and markets have reopened and some residents have been given passes allowing them to go out for a few hours at a time.

The lockdown prompted an exodus of Chinese and foreign residents, with crowds forming outside the city’s Hongqiao station, where only some train services had resumed.

Even as the rest of the world has opened up, China has stuck to its “zero-COVID” strategy requiring lockdowns, mass testing and isolation in centralized facilities of anyone who is infected or has come into contact with it. a person tested positive.

ABC News

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