Shanghai’s Strict 6-Week Lockdown Nears End As Covid Outbreak Eases
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Topline

Covid-19 cases in Shanghai continued to decline, prompting authorities on Monday to announce plans for a phased reopening of the city after it endured six weeks of stringent lockdowns that left a bruising impact on China’s economy.

Key Facts

According to China’s National Health Commission, Shanghai reported a total of 938 new cases—all inside areas with the most stringent quarantine restrictions—and four deaths.

The city’s vice mayor Zong Ming said 15 out of Shanghai’s 16 districts have achieved “zero Covid” status, which implies three days of no new cases among people who are not already under quarantine within a district.

For the first time since the initial lockdown, authorities on Monday offered a clear timetable for Shanghai’s reopening which would take place in phases, with restrictions on movement staying in place till May 21.

As long as cases don’t rebound, something Zong said authorities “remain sober” about, they plan to begin restoring normalcy in the city starting June 1.

The city’s residents—who have endured several problems including food shortages- however, remained skeptical on social media.

China’s capital Beijing reported 54 new cases on Monday and some residents were asked to continue working from home, while school classes remain online and restaurants are limited to take-out only.

Big Number

575. That’s the total number of deaths Shanghai has reported since the start of its current outbreak in March. These deaths now account for more than 10% of all Covid-19 fatalities that China has reported since the start of the pandemic.

Tangent

The lengthy lockdown in Shanghai, China’s financial hub, has had a major impact on the country’s economy, as many had expected. In April, retail sales in China dropped 11.1% compared to the previous year as shops, restaurants and other venues remained shut in Shanghai, parts of Beijing and other cities in eastern China. The country’s manufacturing output also sank by 2.9% as key factories remained shut. The country’s export growth witnessed a major slowdown in April, growing only at 3.7% year over year, sharply down from 15.7% in March.

Key Background

China has zealously stuck to its ‘zero-Covid’ plan despite the current outbreaks in Shanghai and Beijing being fueled by the highly infectious BA.2 omicron variant of the coronavirus. Any efforts to question the hardline strategy—which involves stringent lockdowns and mass testing to curb outbreaks—have been met with pushback and censorship from the state. Last week, China’s internet censors targeted World Health Organization chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus after he said the policy was unsustainable. A post featuring Tedros’ remarks from an official United Nations account on Weibo was removed shortly after publication, while video clips of his comments on the same were taken down by WeChat.

Further Reading

Shanghai says lockdown to ease as virus spread mostly ends (Associated Press)

Shanghai aims for June 1 return to normal as COVID lockdown batters economy (Reuters)

Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus

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