Shanghai, affected by Covid, announces the gradual reopening of businesses

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Shanghai (AFP) – Shanghai announced a gradual reopening of businesses from Monday, but it remains unclear when the millions of people still locked down in China’s economic capital will finally be allowed out of their homes.

Faced with its worst Covid-19 outbreak since the start of the pandemic, China – the world’s last major economy still closed – placed the city of 25 million people under heavy restrictions in early April.

The rigid strategy to eradicate virus cases at all costs has wreaked havoc on supply chains, crushed small businesses and jeopardized the country’s economic goals.

For many Shanghai residents, some of whom were already confined to their homes even before April, frustrations have included problems with food supplies, access to non-Covid medical care and spartan quarantine centers, and many are expressing their anger online.

Shanghai vice-mayor Chen Tong announced on Sunday a reopening of businesses “in stages” from May 16.

Chen, however, did not specify whether he was referring to a gradual resumption of activity in the city or whether it was subject to certain health criteria.

Under China’s zero-Covid strategy, any lifting of restrictions is usually conditional on there being no new positive cases for three days, outside of quarantine centers.

Shanghai authorities were aiming for this goal in mid-May.

Infections appear to be on the decline, with 1,369 new cases reported in Shanghai on Sunday, compared to more than 25,000 at the end of April.

In some areas of the city, however, restrictions have been tightened in recent days.

Some 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) to the north, residents of Beijing fear they will face a similar lockdown after more than a thousand cases have been recorded in the capital since late April.

Beijing has repeatedly tested its residents and locked down buildings with positive cases and closed subway stations and non-essential businesses in some neighborhoods.

In an attempt to curb the outbreak, Beijing’s southwest Fangshan district, which has a population of 1.3 million, suspended taxi services from Saturday.

Apart from a few neighborhoods subject to restrictions, the vast majority of Beijing’s 22 million inhabitants can still leave their homes.

But many public places are closed and residents are forced to work from home, especially in the populated district of Chaoyang, where many multinationals are based.

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