Coronavirus: Shanghai officials eye reopening, manufacturing resumption as new Covid-19 cases fall to a 24-day low

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New Covid-19 cases in Shanghai fell for the fifth consecutive day, plunging to a 24-day low and prompting city officials to work on plans for restarting manufacturing, public transport, and retail in the mainland’s financial capital.

Authorities detected 10,622 infections over the last 24 hours, 21.7 per cent fewer than a day earlier, according to data released on Thursday. Symptomatic cases fell 19.6 per cent to 1,292, also the fifth straight day of decline, while 47 patients died. Cumulative cases since the outbreak started in Shanghai on March 1 hit 544,000.

With the virus outbreak appearing to stabilise, business leaders are eager to get back to work.

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“It is a positive sign that the virus has slowed its pace of spreading,” said Wang Feng, chairman of Shanghai-based financial services group Ye Lang Capital. “It is time for Shanghai government to implement its plan to drastically resume production and commercial activities.”

Medical personnel in protective gear rode scooters through Nanjing street in Shanghai on April 25, 2022. Photo: EPA-EFE
Medical personnel in protective gear rode scooters through Nanjing street in Shanghai on April 25, 2022. Photo: EPA-EFE

The municipal government has yet to publish a time frame for lifting the citywide lockdown that began on April 1. However, local officials are now working on detailed operating guides governing the reopening of public transport and retail outlets, as well as production resumption at a wider range of manufacturing sites, according to two Shanghai government officials.

A balance between virus control and economic development should be considered as the pandemic shows signs of stabilising, Mayor Gong Zheng told officials at state-owned investment firm Shanghai Chengtou Holding during an inspection tour on Wednesday.

Last week, key manufacturers including Tesla and Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC), the mainland’s largest chip maker, were allowed to resume production in a “closed loop”, with workers sleeping at or near work sites to ensure zero contact with outsiders.

A medical worker scanned a resident’s health code for registration for a nucleic acid test at a building under closed-off management in Beicai Town in Shanghai on April 26, 2022. Photo: Xinhua
A medical worker scanned a resident’s health code for registration for a nucleic acid test at a building under closed-off management in Beicai Town in Shanghai on April 26, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

A further relaxation of the lockdown measures is expected to take effect after the city achieves the so-called societal zero-Covid goal.

Shanghai aims to bring new infections in unguarded zones – low-risk residential compounds and their surroundings – to zero in the coming days before shifting its focus to preventing the disease from spilling into the community.

On Wednesday, the number of infections in the unguarded zones rose to 192 from 171 a day earlier.

Severe cases jumped to 308 from the 244 reported on Wednesday, and the number of patients in critical condition nearly doubled to 48 from 27.

People lined up outside a nucleic acid testing site during a mass testing exercise in Beijing’s Haidian district on April 26, 2022. Photo: Reuters
People lined up outside a nucleic acid testing site during a mass testing exercise in Beijing’s Haidian district on April 26, 2022. Photo: Reuters

The death toll from the outbreak hit 285. Most deaths have been among elderly citizens with serious underlying ailments such as terminal cancer, coronary syndrome, cerebral infarction and Alzheimer’s disease.

Zhao Dandan, deputy director of the Shanghai health commission told a press briefing on Thursday that the city’s anti-pandemic work was still “at a critical stage” and urged senior citizens to get vaccinated to safeguard their health.

Among Shanghai’s population of 25 million, 5.8 million people are aged above 60.

Zhao said that 3.6 million, or 62 per cent of elderly people have been fully vaccinated, and 2.2 million of those have received a booster shot.

Some 27,187 Covid-19 patients were released from hospitals and quarantine sites on Wednesday, raising the total to about 325,000, or 60 per cent of the total infections recorded over the past two months.

Nationwide, China saw 11,285 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, down 20.7 per cent from a day earlier. The case count in Shanghai represented 94 per cent of the national total.

In Beijing 50 new cases were discovered on Wednesday, a new one-day high since the Omicron variant surfaced in the capital on April 22.

The local health commission told a press briefing on Thursday evening that it had spotted another 33 cases, with the total case count hitting 194 in the current outbreak.

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