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Shanghai to begin lifting COVID lockdown, bringing relief and disbelief

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English - To the relief of Shanghai's 25 million people, authorities began demolishing gates around housing tra...




Image: Reuters



Berita 24 English - To the relief of Shanghai's 25 million people, authorities began demolishing gates around housing tracts and peeling police tape off public squares and buildings on Tuesday, only hours before a torturous two-month lockdown is lifted at midnight.

On Monday evening, some of those allowed out of their complexes for brief walks took advantage of the halted traffic to congregate on desolate streets for a beer and ice cream, but locals were wary and anxious.

Most people will remain confined to their homes until midnight, as they have been for the previous two months as a result of a ruthlessly imposed lockdown that has resulted in economic losses, stress, and despair for millions of people who are unable to obtain food or emergency medical care.

The city's manufacturing and export-heavy economy has been damaged as a result of the protracted isolation, which has disrupted supply lines in China and throughout the world and slowed international trade.

From Wednesday, when the passes provided by residential buildings for individuals to go out for a few hours will be withdrawn, public transportation will restart, and residents will be able to return to work, life will return to a more regular state.

"I'm a little anxious now that I'm going back to work so quickly," resident Joseph Mak, who works in education, said. "It's difficult to believe it's occurring."

Only those living in low-risk zones, or approximately 22.5 million people, will see their restrictions eased. Residents will still be required to wear masks and are advised not to congregate.

Dining in restaurants is still prohibited. Shops can function at a maximum capacity of 75%. Gyms will reopen at a later date.

To use public transportation or visit public venues, residents will need to acquire COVID tests every 72 hours. Anyone who tests positive and their close connections are still subjected to a strict quarantine.

LOCKDOWN-WARY

The conclusion of the lockdown is both a source of comfort and dread.

China is the only large country following a strict "zero COVID" policy, which attempts to eliminate all outbreaks as quickly as possible at whatever cost.

The highly transmissible Omicron form is prone to resurfacing, and it's unclear if frequent testing will be enough to keep it under control.

Camel Hospitality Group, which manages eight restaurants, four pubs, and three gyms in Shanghai and Suzhou, is skeptical.

His establishments are only permitted to perform deliveries, which account for around 5% of total earnings, insufficient to cover staff and rent. At least from midnight, his employees who have been sleeping in restaurants due to severe lockdown conditions would be able to return home.

"I'm hoping they'll move things ahead swiftly to get the economy going again," Pearson remarked. "I just hope it doesn't come at the expense of other epidemics." Many businesses and people, I'm not sure, could handle much more."

Economic growth in China improved slightly in May when COVID restrictions in major manufacturing hubs were gradually eased, however movement restrictions continued to dampen demand and hamper production.

In May, factory activity reached a three-month high, but it was down from a year ago.

THE NEW NORMAL IN SHANGHAI

Shanghai recorded 31 incidents on May 30, down from 67 the day before, all of which were within restricted areas. Many other cities in China have seen a decrease in incidence, with new daily infections falling to 174 from 184 nationwide.

Other countries, which have chosen to live with the virus as it spreads, are reporting tens of thousands of new cases every day.

When the Shanghai blockade is lifted, life in the city will still be significantly different from what it was in those places.

As of Wednesday, some banking clerks stated they will be obliged to wear complete hazmat suits and face shields when dealing with the public.

One banking employee, who only went by the surname Qin, said he would bring some basic supplies to work in case a coworker tested positive and the entire workplace was ordered to isolate.

"I'll have to leave some clothes and supplies at the office." Qin responded, "Just in case."

People have been banging pots and pans outside their windows to indicate their displeasure with the severe regulations, and many have taken to social media to share their frustrations with officials and other personal tragedies brought on by the restrictions.

The public outrage comes at a crucial time for President Xi Jinping, who is largely anticipated to win a record-breaking third term in office this autumn.

On Tuesday, one complex hung a Chinese flag for residents to photograph while they waited in line for one more PCR test before the reopening.

"It's worth celebrating," exclaimed one volunteer worker at the testing station, waving a miniature Chinese flag and sounding more upbeat about COVID than the people who were having their noses swabbed. "It's unlikely we'll have it again for the rest of our lives."

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