Shanghai reached a milestone after keeping community infections at zero for the third day, giving authorities the confidence to relax some of the measures that have kept three of every 100 residents locked down, en route to a full return to normalcy by the end of June.
Daily new cases fell for the fourth day, dropping 12.3 per cent to 823 in the past 24 hours, according to data released on Tuesday. Symptomatic cases rose 11.6 per cent to 77, while one patient died. The total death toll since April 18 increased to 576, or 0.09 per cent of the 621,000 in the city of 25 million people who have caught the disease.
“All 16 districts in the city have achieved the societal zero-Covid goal,” the deputy director of Shanghai’s health commission Zhao Dandan said during a press briefing, adding that 860,000 people are living in “lockdown areas” with their residential compounds entirely sealed off.
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Societal zero-Covid is a watershed moment in Shanghai’s anti-pandemic work, after which the city will ease the draconian virus control measures that have upended daily lives and strained global supply chains close to breaking point amid a citywide lockdown. The city has reached the milestone three days ahead of the May 20 target set by Executive Vice-Mayor Wu Qing.
“The focus will shift to drastically resume production and commercial activities,” said Wang Feng, chairman of Shanghai-based financial service group Ye Lang Capital. “But the pace [of resumption] will be slow, because zero-Covid is still the primary goal targeted by the local and central authorities.”
Shanghai, one of China’s largest population centres and the country’s commercial hub, plans to relax the city’s lockdown on June 1, in a phased plan to gradually return the city’s businesses and production to normal by late June, Vice-Mayor Zong Ming said on Monday.
Some shopping centres, supermarkets, restaurants and barber shops around residential compounds that had been free of community infections for the past 14 days reopened on Monday.
Residents in low-risk “precautionary zones” that had been case-free for 14 days were also allowed to leave their compound, Zong said.
Shanghai went into a citywide lockdown on April 1 amid a flare-up in the outbreak, and the city has been aiming to achieve the societal zero-Covid goal since mid-April by issuing at least three rounds of stop work and standstill orders to curb the movements by even medical workers, food-delivery staff and volunteers.
The initial success of Shanghai’s efforts to contain the pandemic drove mainland stocks up on Tuesday.
The CSI300, which tracks the 300 biggest stocks on the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges, rose 1.3 per cent to 4,005.89. The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.7 per cent to 3,093.70, while the Shenzhen Composite Index added 0.7 per cent to 1,940.45.
At present, Shanghai residents allowed to venture out on to the streets are given only two hours for shopping at designated retail outlets near their homes.
“The relaxation is not enough,” said Yu Yueqi, a resident living in southwestern district of Xuhui. “We have been confined to our homes for seven weeks and need more time to go shopping and do physical exercise outdoors.”
Shopping malls and supermarkets that are in operation now can use a maximum 50 per cent of their normal capacity to serve customers before June 1, and subdistrict authorities are still limiting the number of people allowed to leave their residential compounds.
Most residential complexes in “precautionary zones” let two people from each family go out once a week for shopping.
Public transport was expected to resume gradually from May 22, Zong said on Monday. Employees cannot return to offices until public transport restarts and private cars are allowed back on the roads.
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