WRAPUP 1-Shanghai edges closer to emerging from COVID lockdown, Beijing plays defense


* Shanghai is working cautiously to restore transportation services

* Shanghai reports mostly zero new community cases this week

* Beijing on edge as new infections continue to emerge

By Eduardo Baptista and Laura Lin

BEIJING/SHANGHAI, May 21 (Reuters) – Shanghai moved cautiously forward on Saturday with plans to restore part of its transport network in a major step towards emerging from a week-long COVID-19 lockdown, while that Beijing has maintained its defenses in an outbreak that has persisted for a month.

Shanghai’s lockdown since early April has dealt a severe blow to the economy of China’s most populous city, sparked debate over the sustainability of the national zero-COVID policy and stoked fears of future lockdowns and disruptions.

Unlike the financial hub, Beijing has refrained from imposing a citywide lockdown, reporting dozens of new cases a day, compared to tens of thousands in Shanghai at its peak. Yet the endless restrictions and mass testing imposed on the Chinese capital have disrupted its economy and upended the lives of its people.

As Beijing remained in COVID angst, workers in Shanghai were disinfecting subway stations and trains ahead of the planned restoration of four subway lines on Sunday.

Although the service has limited hours, it will allow residents to move between neighborhoods and meet connecting needs to train stations and one of the city’s two airports. More than 200 bus lines will also reopen.

Underscoring the level of caution, Shanghai officials said commuters would be scanned for abnormally high body temperatures and should show negative PCR test results taken within 48 hours.

Shanghai discovered 868 new local cases on Friday, up from 858 a day earlier, city health authorities said on Saturday, a far cry from the peak in daily case counts last month.

No new cases were found outside quarantine areas, down from three a day earlier, health authorities added.

The city of 25 million has gradually reopened malls, convenience stores and wholesale markets and allowed more people out of their homes, with community transmissions largely eliminated in recent days.

Still, Shanghai tightened strict restrictions on two of its 16 districts on Friday.

Authorities “urge businesses to strictly implement safe production, which is their responsibility, especially to meet certain epidemic prevention and control requirements,” an official with the city’s emergency bureau said Saturday during the meeting. of a press conference.

Delta Airlines said Friday it would resume a daily flight to Detroit from Shanghai via Seoul on Wednesday.

DRAWING COMPARISONS

Most of Beijing’s recent cases have been in areas already cordoned off, but authorities remained nervous and acted quickly under China’s ultra-strict policy.

In Fengtai, a district of 2 million people at the center of Beijing’s COVID-fighting efforts, bus and subway stations have mostly been closed since Friday and residents have been told to stay at home.

A Fengtai resident stocked up on groceries at a nearby Carrefour on Saturday, unsure if the restrictions would continue.

“I don’t know if I will be able to do more shopping in the next week, so I bought a lot of things today and even bought some dumplings for the dragon boat holiday” in early June, said she said, asking not to be identified.

On Friday, thousands of residents of a neighborhood in Chaoyang, Beijing’s most populous district, were placed in hotel quarantine after some cases were detected, according to the state-run China Youth Daily.

Social media users on China’s Weibo Twitter were quick to draw parallels with Shanghai, where entire residential buildings were taken to centralized quarantine facilities in response to a single positive COVID case in some cases.

While unverified accounts of Nanxinyuan neighborhood residents garnered thousands of comments and shares on Weibo, a related hashtag could not be searched on the platform on Saturday, suggesting online censorship.

“Perhaps…apart from Shanghai people, no one will feel Beijing’s Nanxinyuan. However, I don’t really know if there are people who will see this phrase,” Shanghai-based director and actor Xie wrote. Tiantian on Weibo.

Sun Shuwei, an employee of a tech start-up, told Reuters the situation in Nanxinyuan, just 2 km (1.2 miles) from his home, prompted him to consider leaving Beijing.

“It left me very restless,” Sun said. (Reporting by Eduardo Baptista, Judy Hua, Laura Lin and Stella Qiu; Writing by Ryan Woo; Editing by Richard Pullin and William Mallard)