Several people in HAZMAT suits in an elevator

Pressure in Shanghai to remain COVID-zero

Health authorities in Shanghai are under “enormous” pressure to keep China’s most populous city free from COVID-19 as residents count down the days to June 1 and the end of their lockdown after nearly two months of isolation.

The 25 million commercial hub achieved a fourth straight day with no new infections in the community, holding on to its prized “zero-COVID” status and keeping hopes for an imminent end to its lockdown woes.

Despite there being no new cases, authorities are not lifting the lockdown immediately, but are gradually easing restrictions until June 1, with some stores allowed to open their doors this week and public transport is expected to partially resume over the weekend.

Shanghai residents will benefit from a slight easing of lockdown restrictions.Reuters

Residents of residential complexes in Shanghai have been given passes that allow one person from each household to go out for a few hours at a time.

Some can only go out twice a week and only within a few blocks of their home.

To enter a supermarket, they also need a pass from the store.

“The risk of finding positive infections among high-risk groups still exists and the pressure to … prevent a rebound remains enormous,” said Zhao Dandan of the Municipal Health Commission.

The government of Shanghai’s Xuhui District posted photos on its social media account of workers planting flowers along largely deserted streets to ensure a “clean and beautiful” environment for the “resumption of work and production in the city”.

However, in Changning’s central district, large piles of trash have spilled onto the roads, a sign of how the city has struggled to maintain services during the lockdown.

As part of the gradual reopening, Shanghai authorities have released a list of 864 financial institutions that can resume operations, according to three knowledgeable sources.

A group of people wait outside a pharmacy in Shanghai
People keep social distancing while waiting to buy essential things.Reuters: Brenda Goho

Posts on social media have shown long lines of people, most of them migrant workers, outside one of the city’s main train stations, wanting to return to their hometowns after being allowed to leave.

Some have been photographed hauling suitcases on rented bicycles or taking long walks from far-flung corners of the city.

The United States, Europe and other regions have lifted restrictions on “living with the virus” and boosting their economies even as new infections spread.

However, China has taken a radically different path, relentlessly restricting movement and isolating people to end any outbreak, regardless of economic costs.

Defeating the highly portable Omicron variant has proven to be an uphill battle, as the battle in the capital Beijing has shown over the past month.

Beijing authorities have been discovering dozens of new cases almost every day since April 22.

While most Beijing residents work from home, they can at least roam outdoors, albeit with few places to go, as many shops, gyms and other businesses in several districts have closed.

People standing in front of an open gate to a residential complex, some wearing personal protective equipment
Beijing residents could roam outside, unlike those in Shanghai.Reuters: Brenda Goho

“I’m glad we’re not at home like in Shanghai, but still quite frustrated with what’s happening as most countries have already transitioned from COVID,” said Lin Cong, 27, who lives in Chaoyang district, the epicenter. of the outbreak.

Losing income and trust

In total, Shanghai reported fewer than 1,000 new cases before May 17, none from outside a quarantined area.

Beijing reported 69 cases, compared to 52.

China’s uncompromising strategy to fight COVID-19 has put hundreds of millions of people in dozens of cities under restrictions of some form and disrupted a global revival in manufacturing of everything from cell phones to electric vehicles.

Companies from Apple to Tesla have taken a hit.

E-commerce group JD.com said Tuesday it was hesitant about the outlook as consumers lose revenue and confidence and logistics are disrupted.

Still, investor sentiment towards JD.com and its colleagues has improved after comments made by Deputy Prime Minister Liu He at a Tuesday meeting with technical executives. He harbored hopes that a regulatory crackdown on the sector was easing.

The unprecedented crackdown, which began in 2020, has hit tech companies and volatile markets, stripping billions of dollars in market value and weighing heavily on a key growth engine.

Chinese man in suit smiling
Deputy Prime Minister Liu He has hinted at an easing of regulatory action against China’s technology sector.Reuters: Leah Millis

However, a more free-flowing technology sector would not make up for the headwinds China is facing from COVID-19, a downturn in the real estate sector, geopolitics and rising borrowing costs in the United States and elsewhere.

Prices of new homes in China fell in April for the first time since December, it emerged on Wednesday.

Chinese stocks fell and the yuan fell as bonds faced continued capital outflows.

This week, data showed that consumption and factory output fell in April at a rate not seen since early 2020, as COVID-19 — first detected in Wuhan city in late 2019 — began its global spread.

According to analysts, China will likely struggle to achieve a rapid recovery without compromising its “zero-COVID” policy.

Reuters

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