By EMILY WANG FUJIYAMA and KEN MORITSUGU, Associated Press
SHANGHAI (AP) — Authorities in Shanghai announced on Wednesday they would take major steps to reopen China’s largest city after a two-month COVID-19 lockdown that has shrunk the national economy and largely confined millions of people at home.
Already a steady stream of people strolled through the Bund, the city’s historic waterfront park, on a pleasant Tuesday evening, some taking selfies against the bright lights of the Pudong financial district across the street. river. Elsewhere, people gathered outside to eat and drink under the watch of police deployed to discourage the formation of large crowds.
Lu Kexin, a high school student visiting the Bund for the first time since late March, said she had gone mad from being trapped at home for so long. “I’m very happy, extremely happy, all the way, too happy,” she said. “I could die.”
Vice Mayor Zong Ming announced that full bus and subway service will be restored on Wednesday, as will basic rail connections to the rest of China. Schools will partially reopen on a voluntary basis, and malls, supermarkets, convenience stores and pharmacies will gradually reopen to no more than 75% of full capacity. Cinemas and sports halls will remain closed.
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“The epidemic has been effectively brought under control,” Zong said, adding that the city will enter the phase of full work and life restoration on Wednesday.
Officials, who set June 1 as the target date for reopening earlier in May, appear poised to accelerate what has been a gradual easing in recent days. A few malls and markets have reopened and some residents have been given passes allowing them to go out for a few hours at a time. In online chat groups, some expressed excitement at being able to move freely around the city for the first time since late March, while others remained cautious given the slow pace and nature intermittent opening. far.
Workers pulled down some of the barriers that had been erected along sidewalks during the lockdown. A few people walked or cycled through the still mostly empty streets. A man has his hair cut on the sidewalk, a common sight in recent days, as a worker or volunteer in full protective gear looks on.
More than half a million people in the city of 25 million will not be allowed out on Wednesday – 190,000 who are still in lockdown zones and another 450,000 who are in control zones because they live close to recent cases.
Shanghai recorded 29 new cases on Monday, continuing a steady decline from more than 20,000 a day in April. Li Qiang, the top official of the ruling Chinese Communist Party in Shanghai, reportedly told a meeting on Monday that the city has made major progress in fighting the epidemic through continuous struggle.
Success had a price. Authorities have imposed a suffocating citywide lockdown as part of China’s “zero-COVID” strategy that aims to snuff out any outbreak with mass testing and isolation in centralized facilities of anyone infected.
Huge temporary facilities have been set up at exhibition centers and other venues to house thousands of people who tested positive. Healthcare teams and other workers traveled from across the country to help run the massive enterprise.
Factories were closed or only allowed to operate if workers slept there to prevent the virus from spreading. Reduced production at semiconductor factories has worsened the global shortage of chips. Containers stuck at the port of Shanghai due to a shortage of truckers to deliver them to their destination.
Still, ruling Communist Party leaders have repeatedly expressed their determination to stick to the “zero-COVID” policy even as other countries have opened their borders and are trying to “live with the virus.” . Outside economists widely expect China to miss its 5.5% growth target for this year.
However, the latest economic data showed that Chinese manufacturing activity started to rebound in May as the government rolled back some lockdown measures.
Schools will reopen for the last two years of high school and the third year of middle school, but students can decide to attend in person. The other classes and kindergarten remain closed.
Outdoor tourist sites will begin to reopen on Wednesday, with indoor sites expected to follow in late June, the Shanghai tourism authority said. Group visits from other provinces will be allowed again when the city has cleared all high and medium risk pandemic areas.
Beijing, the national capital, further eased restrictions in some districts on Tuesday. The city has imposed limited lockdowns, but nothing near a citywide level, in a much smaller outbreak that appears to be on the decline. Beijing recorded 18 new cases on Monday.
Moritsugu reported from Beijing. Associated Press researchers Si Chen in Shanghai and Yu Bing in Beijing contributed to this report.
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