The Chinese city of Shanghai has announced a gradual reopening plan after 15 of its 16 districts went into lockdown for more than six weeks and eliminated the spread of COVID-19.
Opening will be rolled out in stages, states media The city government said “normal life” would resume on June 1, it was reported on Monday.
Shanghai’s top priority is to resume industrial production and manufacturing, followed by commercial commerce, Zong Ming, vice-mayor, was quoted as saying.
Grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores will be allowed to open this week, and some schools will also allow in-person instruction, but precautions will still be in place to prevent a relapse.
Private cars and taxis will also be allowed on the streets from Monday, and some public transport will resume on May 22.
“From June 1 to mid-to-late June, as long as the risk of the epidemic rebound is under control, we will fully implement epidemic prevention and control, normalize management, and fully restore the city’s normal production and life.” Zong Qinghou said.
But the announcement was met with skepticism by some Shanghai residents, who have been disappointed time and time again by the changing timeline for lifting restrictions.
“Shanghai, Shanghai… Should I still trust you?” one member of the public said on the Weibo social media platform.
Returning to daily life could be a challenge, some noted, as many areas and even buildings were placed under “hard lockdowns,” with police and city workers erecting physical barriers, fences and even roadblocks to limit the movement of people.
Police seals on many store doors are also still in place. Authorities now need to remove much of this infrastructure.
Shanghai is currently divided into a number of areas, separated by temporary walls (usually architectural barriers) along dotted lines on the map.
Crossing the street requires finding an open street where the police will check the paperwork. pic.twitter.com/uZRfMEtc9v
— Chris pc (@chris__pc) May 15, 2022
Other reports suggest that lockdowns of certain buildings and compounds could continue if local cases are detected during regular testing.
Blake Stone-Banks, a Shanghai expat, tweeted on Sunday that his residence had been locked down for an additional 14 days due to positive cases in the area. It was the first positive test in nearly a month, he said, adding that the compound had been severely restricted since March 16.
#Shanghai Our lockdown was extended for another 14 days as our compound tested positive. Positive for the first time in nearly a month, so the spread must be through childbirth or PCR. Except for two days, we have been locked in since March 16th. Heard screams outside.
— Blake Stonebanks (@blakestonebanks) May 14, 2022
Throughout the lockdown, Shanghai authorities have repeatedly dashed hopes of ending the ordeal. Authorities said the lockdown would only last until April 5 and be implemented on March 27.
Instead, 26 million people faced a weeks-long indefinite lockdown, initially causing some residents to scramble to find food, before buildings and communities organized group buying schemes to circumvent restrictions.
Nonetheless, China has rejected all criticism of “zero virus”, including from the World Health Organization. The ruling Communist Party said it was committed to “resolutely combating any attempt to distort, question or refute China’s anti-coronavirus policies”.
China reported 1,159 infections on Monday, the vast majority in Shanghai. Almost all are asymptomatic infections.
The lockdown in Shanghai and surrounding cities has disrupted global supply chains because the region is one of China’s most important industrial centers.
In March and April, industrial production in China contracted at the fastest pace since the pandemic began in early 2020.
China is not expected to scrap its controversial “zero-coronavirus” policy at its upcoming 20th National Congress in October, when the Communist Party will set its five-year policy goals.
This year’s event is particularly important as the Chinese Communist Party is expected to choose Xi Jinping as its third president in an unprecedented manner.