The lockdown is expected to be lifted by June, but residents will still be asked to get tested frequently
Shanghai crossed the long-awaited milestone of three consecutive days without new cases of Covid-19 outside quarantine zones on Tuesday, but most residents will have to endure confinement for a little longer before a return to a more normal life.
For other cities in China that have been in lockdown, a third day with no new cases in the community usually means zero Covid status and the start of the lifting of restrictions.
The mall of 25 million people on Monday laid out its clearest timetable yet for emerging from a lockdown now in its seventh week, but the plan was met with skepticism by many residents who have seen isolation repeatedly extended.
Shanghai plans to resume outdoor activities in stages, with some convenience stores and pharmacies reopening this week, but most movement restrictions remaining in place until May 21, after which public transport and other services will gradually resume.
By June, the lockdown is expected to be lifted, but residents will still be asked to get tested frequently.
More people have been allowed out of their homes this week, with joggers and dog walkers spotted. A man was seen fishing in the Shanghai River.
But high fences remained around many residential compounds and there were almost no private cars on the streets, with most people still confined to their homes.
It was unclear how many stores reopened this week, but delivery apps reported slightly lower demand for their services on Tuesday.
A social media account by the Communist Party’s official newspaper, the People’s Daily, published photographs late Monday that it said showed breakfasts, restaurants and hairdressers opening up.
A video posted by another state-backed outlet announced the reopening of an Alibaba Freshippo grocery store, showing around 10 staff in hazmat suits making heart shapes with their hands, but only two people who looked like buyers.
A sign on the store’s door said customers had to show a negative Covid test, a pass that said they were allowed to leave their homes and an up-to-date mobile health app to enter.
Only 20 customers are allowed to enter the store at a time.
In total, Shanghai reported less than 1,000 new cases for May 16, all inside areas under the strictest controls. In relatively freer areas, those monitored to assess progress in eradicating the outbreak, no new cases were found for a third day.
The latest daily case count in Beijing was 52, with authorities discovering a few dozen new infections almost daily despite the gradual tightening of restrictions over the past three weeks or so.
Catering services are banned in the capital, some shopping centers and other businesses are closed, public transport is reduced and many residents have been asked to work from home.
Data this week showed the havoc wreaked on the economy by Shanghai’s lockdown and restrictions in dozens of other major cities, with retail sales and industrial production plunging at their fastest pace in more than two years in April.
China’s no-compromise “zero Covid” policy has placed hundreds of millions of consumers and workers under various restrictions at a time when the rest of the world is pushing them to “live with the virus” even as infections spread.
But the difficulty of stamping out new outbreaks, as Beijing’s struggles show, raises concerns about the sustainability of any return to normal life in Shanghai and elsewhere once restrictions are lifted.
China’s unwavering commitment to the zero Covid policy, whatever the economic costs, means that questions about the outlook will persist.
“The pace of recovery will likely depend on how quickly normalization takes place in Shanghai and Beijing and how quickly confidence returns to the private sector,” Societe Generale strategists said in a note.
“On these two points, the zero-Covid strategy could be a persistent brake.”