As the rest of the world tries to live with the virus, China is adopting a zero-Covid strategy. The chaotic lockdown in Shanghai has been particularly controversial. Can normality return now?

After two months of strict lockdown, the restrictions in the eastern Chinese port city of Shanghai have been largely relaxed.

Since Wednesday, most of the 26 million inhabitants have been allowed to leave their homes again. shops opened. Public and private transport has also resumed with certain restrictions. Neighborhoods that are identified as risk areas are still excluded. Around 200,000 people are still in quarantine, as reported by state media.

“It’s a surreal feeling,” the party-affiliated newspaper “Global Times” quoted Shanghai native Wang Mohan, who had been given permission to leave his apartment the day before. “I never thought I’d say that, but what I want to do most is go to work. I’m tired of being stuck at home alone and only coming out to open my mouth and get tested.”

For two months

The lockdown in the economic and financial center of the second largest economy was initially imposed for five days on the Pudong side east of the Huangpu River at the end of March. But the restrictions were extended and ended up lasting two months. There had been severe criticism of the draconian measures due to insufficient food supplies, poor medical care and sometimes chaotic conditions.

At the peak of the wave, there were 27,000 new infections in one day in Shanghai in April. But the metropolis reported only 15 new cases on Tuesday – fewer than in three months. Nationwide, the National Health Commission also reported only 68 new infections, 46 of them asymptomatic.

While the rest of the world now tries to live with the virus, the most populous country continues to pursue a rigorous zero-Covid strategy. With the arrival of the omicron variant, China has been fighting the biggest corona wave since the outbreak of the pandemic more than two years ago. Chinese scientists also warned that full easing without any restrictions could result in 1.5 million deaths in six months, as many elderly people in China are under-vaccinated.

Economy was severely slowed down

The lockdowns and strict quarantine measures in many metropolises and regions have slowed down the economy and disrupted global supply chains. The Shanghai government said it would work towards a full recovery and make an effort to “recover time and losses from the epidemic.” Many companies in Shanghai and the neighboring province of Jiangsu want to ramp up production again by mid-June.

Despite the easing, carmakers Volkswagen and Tesla want their workers to continue working in “closed circuits” until the end of next week, the Bloomberg finance agency reported, referring to informed circles. The workers live on the site without contact with the outside world, which reduces the risks and ensures stable production.

Regular corona tests will continue to be part of everyday life, as will distance rules in the workplace, among other things. Kindergartens, elementary and middle schools remain closed in Shanghai. Stores must limit customer numbers to 75 percent of maximum capacity. Before using public transport or entering shops or shopping centers in the port city, a negative test must be proven within 72 hours with a code on the cell phone.

Similar rules also apply in Beijing, where a negative test in the past 48 hours usually has to be proven. The capital of 21 million inhabitants, which had pursued a soft lockdown, lifted the home office requirement in the largest district of Chaoyang and in Daxing and initially allowed shops to reopen. Restaurants remain closed. Strict restrictions continued to apply in the hard-hit Fengtai District. 14 new corona cases were reported in Beijing on Tuesday.