Hard to believe this is actually happening: Shanghai lifts COVID lockdown

  • Shanghai removes lockout fences and police tape
  • Lockdown is due to expire at midnight in two months
  • Many are worried about contracting COVID, and the risks of being shut down again

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Shanghai authorities on Tuesday began dismantling fences around apartment complexes and tearing police tape off of squares and public buildings before lifting a two-month lockdown in China’s largest city at midnight.

On Monday evening, some people let out their compounds for a brief walk and took advantage of a traffic stop to gather for beer and ice cream on the deserted streets. But there was a sense of caution and anxiety among the population.

“I’m feeling a little nervous,” said Joseph Mack, who works in education. “It’s hard to believe this actually happened.”

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Most of them will be stuck at home again until midnight as they have been for the past two months under a strict lockdown that has taken a toll on income and caused stress and desperation for people struggling to get food or get emergency health care.

The prolonged isolation has sparked public anger and rare protests within the city of 25 million, damaged the industrial and export-heavy economy, disrupted supply chains in China and around the world, and slowed international trade.

Life is set to return to semblance of normal from Wednesday, when permits from residential buildings for people to go out for a few hours will be rescinded, public transportation will resume and residents can return to work.

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“This is a day we have dreamed of for a very long time,” Shanghai government spokeswoman Yin Xin told reporters.

“Everyone sacrificed so much. It has been a difficult day, and we need to cherish and protect him, and welcome him back to the Shanghai we know and miss.”

Near a stream in Shanghai on Tuesday, a spiced goose shop was restocking shelves, a bar was doing last-minute renovations, and cleaners were cleaning shop windows.

Restrictions will be eased for about 22.5 million people in low-risk areas. Residents will still have to wear masks and avoid gatherings. Eating inside restaurants is still prohibited. Shops can operate at 75% capacity. Gyms will reopen at a later time. Read more

Residents will have to take a test every 72 hours to use public transportation and enter public spaces. Severe quarantine remains in store for anyone who catches COVID and their close contacts.

careful lock

Only China is among the major countries implementing a “zero COVID” policy to stem the outbreak at almost any cost.

Julian McCormack, president of the British Chamber of China, said Shanghai has taken control of COVID “at a very significant personal and economic cost”.

“What has changed materially to ensure that this does not happen again?” he asked. “This is where the uncertainty lies.”

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Todd Pearson, managing director of Camel Hospitality Group, which operates restaurants, bars and gyms in and around Shanghai, is concerned.

His restaurants can only deliver orders, which bring in 5% of revenue, not enough to pay salaries and rent. At least from midnight his workers sleeping on the site can finally go home.

“I hope they speed up to rebuild the economy,” Pearson said. “I just hope it doesn’t come at the cost of more outbreaks. I’m not sure many companies or people can handle more.”

Economic activity in China recovered somewhat in May from dreary April as COVID restrictions in manufacturing centers were gradually eased, although movement controls still squeezed demand and curbed production. Read more

Fun with the media

Shanghai reported 31 cases on May 30, down from 67 the day before, reflecting a downward trend across China to fewer than 200 infections nationwide.

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

Some bank clerks said they will have to wear full protective suits and face shields when they begin to face the public from Wednesday. One said he would take some essential supplies to work, in case a colleague tests positive and employees are required to isolate in the office.

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

“The Shanghai government needs to make a public apology in order to gain the understanding and support of the people of Shanghai and repair the damaged relationship between the government and the people,” said Zhou Weiguo, a professor at Fudan University’s School of Foreign Languages. Posted on WeChat.

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The manifestations of discontent come during a sensitive year for President Xi Jinping, who is expected to secure a third term in office this fall.

One complex hung a Chinese flag for residents to take pictures with as they line up for another PCR test before reopening.

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

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Additional reporting by David Stanway, Winnie Zhou, Brenda Goh, Weifan Wang, David Carton, Alby Zhang, Stella Q, Beijing and Shanghai offices; Written by Marius Zaharia. Editing by Michael Perry and Angus McSwan

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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