Shanghai moves closer to COVID reopening


SHANGHAI, May 28 (Reuters) – China’s metropolis of Shanghai moved closer to a gradual reopening after two months of a COVID-19 lockdown, while the capital Beijing maintained restrictions that have drastically reduced travel even as the number of cases is decreasing.

Shanghai is essentially aiming to end its lockdown from Wednesday. More people were allowed out of their homes and more businesses were allowed to reopen in the past week, although most residents remain largely confined to their homes and most shops are limited to making deliveries.

Shanghai officials on Saturday called for continued vigilance, even though the vast majority of its 25 million people live in areas that fall into the low-risk “prevention” category.

“Wear masks in public, no gatherings, and keep social distancing,” Zhao Dandan, deputy director of the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission, told a daily press conference.

Videos on social media showed Friday night revelers, many of them foreigners, drinking and dancing in the street in a central part of town, interrupted by police telling them to go home.

Another video showed a group in the street singing a moving 1985 anthem called “Tomorrow will be better”, accompanied by a keyboardist. The police arrive, allowing the song to end before asking them to go home, prompting praise online for the display of restraint.

The two-month lockdown in China’s largest and most cosmopolitan city has frustrated and infuriated residents, hundreds of thousands of whom have been quarantined in often overcrowded central facilities. Many residents struggled to access enough food or medical care in the first few weeks.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

As the number of nationwide cases improves, China’s strict adherence to zero-COVID has devastated the world’s second-largest economy and rattled global supply chains, alarming investors worried about the lack of a leaf road out of what has been a signature policy of President Xi Jinping.

The economic impact was evident in data released Friday showing April profits for industrial companies fell 8.5% a year, their fastest decline in two years, amid high commodity prices and chaos supply chain caused by COVID-19 restrictions compressing margins and disrupting the plant. activity.

China’s approach, which Beijing says is necessary to save lives and prevent its healthcare system from being overwhelmed, has been challenged by the difficult-to-contain Omicron variant. Much of the world, on the other hand, is trying to get back to normal life despite the continued spread of the coronavirus.

The conflict between defeating the spread of COVID and supporting the economy comes in a politically sensitive year, with Xi set to secure an unprecedented third term in office at a ruling Communist Party congress in the fall.

At an emergency meeting on Wednesday, Premier Li Keqiang acknowledged weak growth and said economic difficulties in some respects were worse than in 2020 after China was initially hit by COVID-19. His remarks prompted the market to expect further measures to support the economy.

SMALL STEPS

On Friday, the district of Fengxian, a suburb of Shanghai, canceled the requirement for residents to have a pass to go out.

The state-run Shanghai Securities News reported modest progress in getting the financial sector back to normal, with the more than 10,000 bankers and traders who have been living and working in their offices since the start of the lockdown gradually returning home. them.

China Citic Bank’s Shanghai branch in Shanghai plans to dispatch nearly 30 staff to its office tower by Wednesday, while 11 Bank of Shanghai staff returned to work this week at its headquarters. office, the newspaper reported. More than 100 bank outlets had resumed operations by Friday, he added.

China reported 362 daily coronavirus cases on Saturday, up from 444 a day earlier. In Beijing, much of which has been under tight restrictions this month, new infections on Friday fell to 24 from 29.

As Shanghai officials reported a community-level case in its Songjiang district, they expressed confidence in the steps they were taking to trace and control the chain of infection.

“If these measures are implemented effectively, we can prevent the epidemic from rebounding even if there are sporadic cases, so don’t worry,” said Sun Xiaodong, deputy director of the Center for Control and Prevention. Shanghai diseases.

(Reporting by Samuel Shen, Jason Xue, Engen Tham and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Writing by Tony Munroe; Editing by William Mallard)