Shanghai detects new COVID-19 cases outside quarantine zones

Shanghai announced its first new COVID-19 cases outside quarantine zones in five days on Friday and imposed tighter restrictions in two districts, but signaled no changes to the planned end of an extended lockdown in citywide on June 1.

The mall of 25 million, now in its seventh week of closure, has slowly allowed more people to leave their homes in recent days, with many residential complexes issuing passes for brief walks or trips to the supermarket.

But in a sign of the challenges of China’s “zero COVID” policy – which is at odds with the resumption of normal life in much of the rest of the world – Qingpu authorities in Shanghai said on Friday they had cordoned off and disinfected several places and tested more than 250,000 residents after finding three cases.

Another district, Hongkou, on Friday afternoon ordered all shops to close and residents to stay at home until at least Sunday as it plans to carry out mass testing. He did not specify why he acted.

“Our district will conduct three consecutive rounds of PCR tests for everyone,” authorities in Hongkou, home to more than 750,000 people, said on the district’s official WeChat account.

“During this screening, all the supermarkets [and] street shops must cease their activities, everyone must not leave their homes.”

Gradual reopening appears underway

Earlier Friday, other Shanghai officials said Shanghai’s gradual reopening stages were continuing, with suburban parks set to open from Sunday. Other parks could open from June if they met certain conditions, but recreational facilities in the parks would remain closed.

On Friday, two people had their hair cut on a street in Shanghai, China. (Aly Song/Reuters)

A plan to reopen four subway lines from Sunday also remained on track, the city government said.

Beijing, China’s capital of 22 million, has struggled to end an outbreak since late April, despite severe restrictions on movement, many residents working from home and a range of shops and venues closed.

But its daily workload has remained in the dozens rather than exploding like Shanghai’s. Beijing reported 62 new COVID infections for May 19, up from 55 a day earlier.

In the capital’s largest district, Chaoyang, a football pitch popular with children was chained down, covered in coils of barbed wire and signs reading “Temporarily closed during the epidemic”.

Nearby, young couples briefly perched together at the edge of a canal, before security personnel approached with a loudspeaker with a message reminding people not to congregate.

Broad economic decline in April

On Friday, Shanghai reported a broad economic decline in April, with many factories closed and consumers stuck at home. The city’s industrial output fell 61.5% from a year ago, the biggest monthly drop since 2011.

A woman uses an ATM at a reopened branch of the Shanghai Rural Commercial Bank in Shanghai on Friday. (cnsphoto/Reuters)

Retail sales fell 48.3%, significantly more than the 11.1% decline nationwide, and real estate sales by floor area fell 88%, according to a Reuters calculation.

Gavekal Dragonomics analysts estimate that less than 5% of Chinese cities are now reporting infections, down from a quarter at the end of March.

Many cities have implemented municipal border controls, conduct frequent mass testing, and monitor and isolate new infections, including by locking buildings.

Taken on Thursday, this elevated photo shows a checkpoint on a street in Shanghai’s Jing’an district which is under COVID-19 control. (Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)

“This new normal should allow manufacturing supply chains to gradually resume normal operation, but will continue to weigh on consumption, the service sector and small businesses,” Gavekal analysts wrote in a note.