By Brenda Goh and Martin Quin Pollard
SHANGHAI/BEIJING, May 22 (Reuters) – Shanghai reopened a small part of the world’s longest metro system on Sunday after some lines were closed for nearly two months as the city paves the way for a fuller lifting of its painful COVID-19 lockdown next week.
With most residents not allowed to leave their homes and restrictions tightening in parts of China’s most populous city, commuters early on Sunday needed good reasons to travel.
Shanghai’s lockdown and restrictions in other cities have hurt consumption, industrial production and other sectors of China’s economy in recent months, prompting pledges of support from policymakers.
Many of those who ventured into the mall wore blue protective gowns and face shields. Inside the cars, passengers were seen keeping empty seats between them. The crowds were small.
Xu Jihua, a migrant construction worker, arrived at a subway station before it opened at 7 a.m., hoping to get to a train station, which then housed the eastern province of Anhui.
“Work stopped on March 16,” Xu said, adding that he hadn’t been able to earn his monthly salary of 7,000 to 8,000 yuan ($1,000 to $1,100) since then and he would only return to Shanghai once he was sure he could find work.
“Is the lockdown really lifted or not? It’s not very clear.”
A woman who only asked to be identified by her surname Li said she was due to visit her father in a hospital 8 km (5 miles) from her last stop.
“I’m going to the heart hospital, but I don’t know if there will be cars or transportation when I get to the station,” Li said. “Maybe I should walk there.”
Four of the 20 reopened lines and 273 bus lines. Some had closed at the end of March, others later, although sporadic service continued with a limited number of stops.
The city of 25 million plans to lift its citywide lockdown and return to more normal life from June 1. Most movement restrictions will remain in place this month.
Shanghai’s 800km metro system averaged 7.7 million trips a day in 2020, according to the latest data, with an annual passenger throughput of 2.8 billion.
Trains will run at 20-minute intervals for limited hours. Commuters must have their body temperature scanned upon entry and show negative PCR test results taken within 48 hours.
Shanghai has gradually reopened convenience stores and wholesale markets and allowed more people to leave their homes, with community transmissions largely eliminated.
Yet parts of the city have recently tightened restrictions, underpinning the difficulty of resuming normal life under China’s zero-COVID policy, which is increasingly at odds with the rest of the world.
Jingan, a key commercial district, said on Saturday it would require all shops to close and residents to stay home until at least Tuesday as it conducts mass testing.
The use of exit permits, previously given to residents that allowed them to leave their homes for short walks, will be suspended, authorities said without giving a reason.
Similar actions were announced in Hongkou County on Friday as well as Qingpu County’s Zhaoxiang City on Saturday, which said it wants to “consolidate” the results of its epidemic prevention efforts so far.
Shanghai reported less than 700 daily cases on Sunday. Significantly, none were outside quarantine zones, as they have been for much of the past week. The capital Beijing has reported 61 cases, down from 70 previously.
Beijing has been gradually tightening restrictions since April 22, with many shops closed, public transport curtailed and residents urged to work from home. But it is still struggling to eradicate an epidemic of dozens of new infections a day.
Tianjin, a key northeast port, discovered 36 new cases on Saturday, CCTV reported.
Regulators said on Friday they would streamline the process for issuing stocks and bonds by companies affected by the pandemic, and urged brokerages and fund managers to funnel more money into sectors. affected by the virus.
($1 = 6.6921 Chinese yuan renminbi) (report from Beijing and Shanghai offices; written by Marius Zaharia and William Mallard)