On a pleasant Tuesday evening, a steady stream of people was already strolling through the Bund, the city’s waterfront historic park, some taking selfies against the bright lights of the Pudong financial district on the other side of the river. Elsewhere, people gathered outside to eat and drink under the supervision of police who were deployed to discourage the formation of large crowds.
Lu Kexin, a high school senior who is visiting the Bund for the first time since late March, said she was going crazy being locked up at home for so long. “I’m very happy, extremely happy, completely, too happy,” she said. “I could die.”
Vice Mayor Zong Ming announced that full bus and metro service will be restored on Wednesday, as will basic train connections with the rest of China. Schools will reopen partially on a voluntary basis and shopping malls, supermarkets, convenience stores and drugstores will gradually reopen at up to 75% of their total capacity. Cinemas and gyms will remain closed.
“The epidemic has been effectively contained,” Zong said, adding that the city will enter the phase of full recovery of work and life on Wednesday.
Officials, who set June 1 as a target reopening date earlier in May, appear poised to accelerate the gradual easing seen in recent days. A few malls and markets have reopened and some residents have been given passes that allow them to go out for a few hours at a time. In online chat groups, some expressed excitement at the prospect of being able to move freely in the city for the first time since late March, while others remained cautious given the slow pace and stop-and-go nature of opening up so far.
Workers tore down some of the barriers erected along the sidewalks during the lockdown. A few people walked or cycled through the largely empty streets. A man had his hair cut on the sidewalk, a common occurrence in recent days, while a worker or volunteer in full protective clothing watched.
More than half a million people in the city of 25 million will not be allowed outside on Wednesday – 190,000 who are still in closed areas and another 450,000 in control zones because they live near recent cases.
Shanghai registered 29 new cases on Monday, a steady decline from more than 20,000 a day in April. Li Qiang, the top official of the ruling Communist Party of China in Shanghai, said at a rally on Monday that the city had achieved great success in fighting the outbreak through ongoing fighting.
Success had a price. Authorities have imposed a stifling citywide lockdown under China’s “zero-covid” strategy that aims to eradicate any outbreak with mass testing and isolation in centralized facilities of anyone infected.
Huge temporary facilities were set up in exhibition centers and other locations to house thousands of people who had tested positive. Teams of healthcare and other workers flew in from across the country to help run the massive undertaking.
Factories were closed or allowed to work only while workers were sleeping on site to prevent the spread of the virus. Reduced production in semiconductor plants contributed to the global chip shortage. Containers were backing up at the Port of Shanghai due to a shortage of truck drivers to deliver them to their destinations.
While this was all, the 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 generally expect China to fall short of its growth target of 5.5% this year.
However, the latest economic data showed that Chinese manufacturing activity started to recover in May as the government rolled back some containment measures.
Schools will reopen for the last two years of high school and the third year of high school, but students can decide if they want to attend in person. Other classes and kindergarten remain closed.
The outdoor tourist spots will reopen on Wednesday, with indoor locations to follow in late June, the Shanghai Tourism Authority said. Group tours from other provinces will be allowed again when the city has eliminated all high- and medium-risk pandemic zones.
Beijing, the country’s capital, further eased restrictions in some districts on Tuesday. The city imposed limited lockdowns, but nothing close to a citywide level, in a much smaller outbreak that appears to be abating. Beijing registered 18 new cases on Monday.