Shanghai begins to recover, lifts coronavirus quarantine

Shanghai (AFP) – Residents of Shanghai flocked to the waterfront and went out to eat and drink on police-guarded streets on Wednesday as people in China’s largest city enjoyed the lifting of a harsh two-month COVID lockdown.

The shutdown has affected the national economy and confined millions of people to their homes. Its strict and often chaotic implementation has sparked protests online and in person rarely seen under the strict authoritarian rule of China.

Subway and bus service are due to be fully restored on Wednesday, as are essential rail links to the rest of China. However, more than half a million people in the city of 25 million have remained confined or restricted to designated control areas because cases of the virus are still being detected.

The government has indicated that all restrictions will be gradually lifted, but neighborhood committees still have significant power to impose arbitrary and sometimes contradictory measures.

This did not prevent people from taking to the streets to eat and drink in front of the police forces deployed to deter large crowds.

Cao Yu, who works in the affected tourism industry, said it was a pleasure to see “many people around me on the street.”

Cao said the last two months of confinement have been a frustrating experience.

“At the beginning of the quarantine, my heart was heavy because I didn’t know what to do and it was hard to buy food at first,” he said. “It was very frustrating to be stuck at home and see all of Shanghai in lockdown.”

Lu Cixin, a high school student visiting the Corniche, better known as The Bund, for the first time since March, said she had gone mad at being stuck at home for so long. “I’m so happy, so happy, so happy.”

Schools will be partially reopened and for students who wish to return, while shopping malls, supermarkets, grocery stores and pharmacies will gradually reopen up to a maximum of 75%. Cinemas and gyms will remain closed.

Health authorities reported just 15 new cases of COVID-19 in Shanghai on Wednesday, compared to a record high of nearly 20,000 daily cases in April. In recent days, the authorities have appeared to have precipitated the gradual lifting of the restrictions.

A few markets and malls have reopened, and some residents have been given permits to go out for a few hours a day.

The quarantine has caused a mass exodus of Chinese and foreign residents. A crowd formed outside Hongqiao Railway Station, where only some train services were resumed.

Although the rest of the world has opened up, China has adhered to a “zero COVID” strategy, which requires quarantine, mass testing, and isolation in central facilities for anyone who has been infected or has been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.

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