Coronavirus: Shanghai factories amble towards reopening as city’s standstill order nears its end amid declining daily Covid-19 cases

·4-min read

Several of Shanghai’s largest factories are tiptoeing towards cranking up their production as the city nears the end of a standstill order, while daily additions of Covid-19 cases fell for the second consecutive day in one of China’s largest manufacturing hubs.

Shanghai reported 20,416 new cases in the previous 24 hours, according to data released on Tuesday, a drop of 8.2 per cent from a day earlier. As many as 3,084 cases showed symptoms, 21.6 per cent more than a day earlier.

Seven elderly residents died, raising the death toll of the current wave to 10 since March 1, more than the city’s sum of fatalities in more than two years since Covid-19 was first reported. The deceased were all elderly – aged from 60 to 101 years – and suffered from a range of ailments including acute coronary syndrome, diabetes and cerebral infarction, which disqualified them from vaccinations.

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As many as 390,000 residents in Shanghai – out of a total population of 25 million -have been infected by the highly transmissible Omicron variant since March 1, with 27,200 showing symptoms.

A man delivers bottled water to a neighbourhood during a lockdown due to Covid-19 in Shanghai on April 18, 2022. Photo: Bloomberg
A man delivers bottled water to a neighbourhood during a lockdown due to Covid-19 in Shanghai on April 18, 2022. Photo: Bloomberg

Shanghai’s daily additions, hovering at more than 20,000 for 12 straight days, have defied a citywide lockdown, now in its third week, and half a dozen rounds of mass tests. Tens of thousands of businesses from corner shops to transnational investors are straining from lost production and choked supply chains, while seething public discontent threatens to boil over.

“We sincerely hope that all the citizens could understand and support our next round of mass tests, which will lay a solid foundation for bringing down new infections to zero at places outside quarantined areas,” Shanghai’s Executive Vice-Mayor Wu Qing said, delivering a rare apology during a press briefing on Tuesday. “We aim to resume production [by businesses] and restore an orderly life [for residents] as early as possible.”

Shanghai’s Executive Vice-Mayor Wu Qing (right), with Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong (second right), and Tesla’s chief executive Elon Musk (centre) during the opening ceremony of Tesla’s Gigafactory3 in Shanghai’s Lingang free-trade zone on January 7, 2019. Photo: Bloomberg
Shanghai’s Executive Vice-Mayor Wu Qing (right), with Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong (second right), and Tesla’s chief executive Elon Musk (centre) during the opening ceremony of Tesla’s Gigafactory3 in Shanghai’s Lingang free-trade zone on January 7, 2019. Photo: Bloomberg

Nationwide, total infections slid 8 per cent to 21,484, according to data released on Tuesday, most of them in Shanghai. Guangdong province in southern China added 16 cases, 11 of which showed symptoms. Jilin province in northeast China added 472 infections.

To completely snuff out the virus, local authorities are doubling down on their lockdown, issuing a standstill order to curb the movements of even medical workers, food deliverers and volunteers.

The “static management” of locked-down areas such as hospitals, quarantine sites and high-risk housing compounds with at least one infection in the past seven days is aimed at completely snuffing out the Omicron variant. The standstill order expires on Wednesday.

Workers in protective suits keep watch on a street during a lockdown, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Shanghai on April 16, 2022. Photo: Reuters
Workers in protective suits keep watch on a street during a lockdown, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Shanghai on April 16, 2022. Photo: Reuters

Amid the strict lockdown, several manufacturers are stress-testing their ability to resume production under so-called closed loops, where workers have to live on-site to maintain zero contact with outsiders.

SAIC Motor, China’s largest state-owned carmaker and the venture partner of General Motors and Volkswagen, is conducting such a test. Tesla, which operates the only wholly foreign car plant in China, is also undergoing stress tests. Sany Heavy Industry, one of the world’s largest makers of earth-moving machines, is also preparing to resume production, after the central and local governments issued operating guidelines to restore economic order in China’s gateway city.

On Monday, a meeting of the State Council was held to iron out festering issues such as supply chain constraint and shortage of labour force facing Shanghai and the surrounding provinces.

Vice-Premier Liu He instructed that a nationally recognised Covid-19 test pass be issued to enable truck drivers to deliver raw materials, components, food and essential supplies between provinces without having to wait for results at every stop.

The cabinet also promised to grant more special vehicle passes to facilitate trucks to ply between Shanghai and its neighbouring cities such as Suzhou and Hangzhou.

Shanghai has yet to announce a time table for ending the citywide lockdown that started from April 1.

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