Shanghai passed the long-awaited milestone of three straight days with no new coronavirus cases outside quarantine zones on Tuesday, but most residents will have to endure the lockdown for a bit longer before a return to more normal life.
For other cities in China that have been in lockdown, a third day with no new cases in the community usually means “Covid zero” status and the start of the lifting of restrictions.
The mall of 25 million people on Monday laid out its clearest timetable yet for emerging from a lockdown now in its seventh week, but the plan was met with skepticism by many residents who have seen isolation repeatedly extended.
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Shanghai plans to resume outdoor activities in stages, with some convenience stores and pharmacies reopening this week, but most movement restrictions remaining in place until May 21, after which public transport and other services will gradually resume.
By June, the lockdown is expected to be lifted, but residents will still be asked to get tested frequently.
More people have been allowed out of their homes this week, with joggers and dog walkers spotted. A man was seen fishing in the Shanghai River.
But high fences remained around many residential compounds and there were almost no private cars on the streets, with most people still confined to their homes.
It was unclear how many stores reopened this week, but delivery apps reported slightly lower demand for their services on Tuesday.
A social media account run by the Communist Party’s official newspaper, the People’s Daily, posted photographs on Monday night that it said showed breakfasts, restaurants and hairdressers opening up.
But one social media user described the post as “nonsense”.
“We’ve been locked up at home for two months… This story is for anyone but the people of Shanghai.”
By Tuesday morning, the post had been deleted.
In total, Shanghai reported less than 1,000 new cases for May 16, all inside areas under the strictest controls. In relatively freer areas, those monitored to assess progress in eradicating the outbreak, no new cases were found for a third day.
The latest daily case count in Beijing was 52, with authorities discovering a few dozen new infections almost daily despite the gradual tightening of restrictions over the past three weeks or so.
Catering services are banned in the capital, some shopping centers and other businesses are closed, public transport is reduced and many residents have been asked to work from home.
Data this week showed the havoc wreaked on the economy by Shanghai’s lockdown and restrictions in dozens of other major cities, with retail sales and industrial production plunging at their fastest pace in more than two years in April.
China’s no-compromise “zero Covid” policy has placed hundreds of millions of consumers and workers under various restrictions at a time when the rest of the world is pushing them to “live with the virus” even as infections spread.
But the difficulty of stamping out new outbreaks, as Beijing’s struggles show, raises concerns about the sustainability of any return to normal life in Shanghai and elsewhere once restrictions are lifted.
China’s unwavering commitment to the zero Covid policy, whatever the economic costs, means that questions about the outlook will persist.
Speaking in Shenzhen on Tuesday, the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China warned that tight pandemic controls will hamper foreign investment in the country for years to come.
“We are very concerned about ongoing and future investment by U.S. and foreign companies in China because people cannot access it in terms of travel,” Michael Hart said at a launch event for the China’s annual report. room.
“Unfortunately the Covid lockdown this year and the restrictions of the past two years are going to mean in three, four, five years we will most likely see a drop in investment.”