Shanghai residents celebrate as city reopens after two-month lockdown

Shanghai residents celebrate as city reopens after two-month lockdown

World’s strictest lockdown is OVER: Shanghai residents celebrate with beers in the street as city finally reopens after two months of crippling Covid restrictions

  • The 65-day lockdown ended at midnight last night as friends and family reunited on the streets of Shanghai
  • China is pursuing a zero Covid strategy to eliminate the virus, but the move has sparked protests
  • Malls, convenience stores, pharmacies and beauty salons are now allowed to operate at 75 per cent capacity 

Shanghai residents have celebrated the end of their crippling lockdown by partying and drinking in the streets as friends and family reunited for the first time in two months.

China’s largest city controversially forced its 25million people to stay at home for 65 days after the Omicron virus variant fuelled China’s worst outbreak in two years, despite most of the world rolling back their pandemic measures.

The draconian restrictions have sparked protests after people were seen being dragged from their homes by hazmat-suited government workers, separating parents from their children in distressing scenes.

All the draconian restrictions were suddenly lifted at midnight last night, a huge relief for the trapped families and the workers forced to camp out in their offices and factories.

Shanghai’s Communist Party committee, the city’s most powerful political body, issued a letter online proclaiming the lockdown’s success and thanking citizens for their ‘support and contributions.’ 

Shanghai residents have celebrated the end of their crippling lcokdown by partying and drinking in the streets

Peopole drink on the street to celebrate after the removal of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in Shanghai

All residents will now be able to leave their compounds freely without using any passes, except those living in medium and high-risk areas

Women throw their hats in the air to celebrate the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, in Shanghai

‘It feels like we’ve all been through a lot of trauma, a collective trauma,’ Grace Guan told AFP.

The 35-year-old Shanghai resident said she went out at midnight when the restrictions eased and saw groups gathered in the street drinking beer, some sitting together on blankets laid out on the pavements.

‘Now it feels like the Berlin Wall coming down.’

On Wednesday morning, commuters trickled into subway stations and office buildings, scanning QR codes that certify they are virus-free.

Residents gathered to chat in parks, queue outside banks and walk by the riverside, with masked customers thronging one of the main shopping streets.

‘Everything is getting better, bit by bit. Things are moving forward,’ said one relieved office worker, surnamed Li.

The famous Bund waterfront was ticking back to life, with visitors snapping pictures of the famous skyline on their phones.

Residents cheer as they pose photos as it neared midnight on the eve of the lifting of the lockdown

All the draconian restrictions were suddenly lifted at midnight last night, a huge relief for the trapped families

Commuters wearing face masks wait for their ride at a subway station, after the lockdown placed to curb the Covid outbreak was lifted in Shanghai

A day earlier, many of the bright yellow barriers that had hemmed in buildings and city blocks for weeks were taken down.

‘It should have been like this to begin with,’ one woman out for a riverside walk told AFP, in echoes of the frustration and anger that has simmered in the city over the strict controls.

Deputy Mayor Zong Ming told reporters Tuesday that the easing would impact about 22 million people in the city.

Malls, convenience stores, pharmacies and beauty salons would be allowed to operate at 75 percent capacity, while parks and other scenic spots would gradually reopen, she added.

But cinemas and gyms remain closed, and schools – shut since mid-March – will slowly reopen on a voluntary basis.

Buses, the subway and ferry services would also resume, transport officials said.

Residents gathered to chat in parks, queue outside banks and walk by the riverside, with masked customers thronging one of the main shopping streets

A day earlier, many of the bright yellow barriers that had hemmed in buildings and city blocks for weeks were taken down

A couple drink on the street to celebrate after the removal of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in Shanghai after midnight last night

Taxi services and private cars will be allowed in low-risk areas, permitting people to visit friends and family outside their district.

‘This is a moment that we have been looking forward to for a long time,’ the Shanghai municipal government said in a statement on social media.

The stringent curbs in Shanghai – home to the busiest container port in the world – had hammered the economy, starving businesses and snarling supply chains in China and abroad.

Signs of resentment and anger among residents emerged throughout the lockdown.

The city government has warned that the situation is still not normal, and businesses said there were many uncertainties.

‘It remains to (be seen) how this new normal will look,’ said Bettina Schoen-Behanzin, chair of the Shanghai chapter at the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China.

Pedestrians walk in the Huangpu district of Shanghai after being freed from the draconian lockdown measures for two months

China has persisted with a zero-Covid strategy, which involves rapid lockdowns, mass testing and long quarantines to try and eliminate infections

Residents line up outside a mall for mass COVID-19 testing despite the easing of restrictions in China’s biggest city

Traffic, pedestrians and joggers reappeared on the streets of Shanghai on Wednesday as China’s largest city began returning to normalcy

‘If there is a positive case in your office or site, in your compound, what happens?’

China has persisted with a zero-Covid strategy, which involves rapid lockdowns, mass testing and long quarantines to try and eliminate infections.

But the economic costs have mounted, and the Shanghai government said ‘the task of accelerating economic and social recovery is becoming increasingly urgent’.

While the easing will allow many factories and businesses to resume operations, there are concerns that the recovery will not be immediate.

‘I definitely have some worries, things are beyond your control… You can’t tell with a pandemic,’ said cafe owner Chen Ribin. 

The move came amid a steady rollback in compulsory measures that have upended daily life for millions while severely disrupting the economy and global supply chains.

Negative Covid PCR tests taken within the previous 48 hours remain standard in Shanghai, Beijing and elsewhere for permission to enter public venues.

On Wednesday morning, commuters trickled into subway stations and office buildings, scanning QR codes that certify they are virus-free

A Kyowa container ship sails past people spending time at a riverside park in the port city 

‘With the lockdown lifting, I feel very happy. I feel today how I feel during Chinese New Year – that kind of mood and joy,’ said Wang Xiaowei, 34, who moved to Shanghai from the inland province of Guizhou just a week before the lockdown began.

Liu Ruilin, 18, said she wasn’t sure her building’s security guard would let her and others out on Tuesday night. The restriction ended exactly at midnight, she said.

‘Then we said, ‘Let’s go to the Bund to have fun,” she said in the city’s historic riverside district. ‘We thought there wouldn’t be too many people here, but we were surprised after coming over that a lot of people are here. I feel pretty good – quite excited.’

Health authorities on Wednesday reported just 15 new Covid-19 cases in Shanghai, down from a record high of around 20,000 daily cases in April.

The lockdown has prompted an exodus of Chinese and foreign residents, with crowds forming outside the city’s Hongqiao Railway Station, where only some train services have resumed.

Even while the rest of the world has opened up, China has stuck to a ‘zero-COVID’ strategy that requires lockdowns, mass testing and isolation at centralised facilities for anyone who is infected or has been in contact with someone who has tested positive.

Staff members wait at an entrance to enter a shopping mall which is now allowed to operate at 75 percent capacity

Cinemas and gyms remain closed, and schools – shut since mid-March – will slowly reopen on a voluntary basis

Residents celebrate with a toast as they pose for a selfie after midnight when restrictions were dropped in Shanghai

The country’s borders also remain largely closed and the government has upped requirements for the issuance of passports and permission to travel abroad.

At least half of foreign companies in Shanghai are waiting until next week to reopen while they put in place hygiene measures, said Bettina Schoen-Behanzin, a vice president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China. 

As a precaution, many companies plan to have only half their workforce on site at a time.

‘There is still quite some uncertainty and a scare that if there is a positive case in the office building or in your compound, you might be locked down again,’ said Schoen-Behanzin, who works in Shanghai.

Retail sales fell by a worse-than-forecast 11 per cent in April from a year earlier, government data show. Auto sales fell by almost half from a year earlier, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Private sector forecasters have cut their estimates for this year’s economic growth to as low as 2 per cent, well below the ruling Communist Party’s target of 5.5 per cent. Some expect output to shrink in the three months ending in June.

‘The economy is really in a crisis,’ said Schoen-Behanzin.

The Port of Shanghai, the world’s busiest, appears to be back to 80 per cent to 85 per cent of its normal operating capacity, according to Schoen-Behanzin. She cited data that said the port had a backlog of 260,000 cargo containers in April.

‘The rest of the world will feel these delays probably (through) June or July,’ she said.

The city will likely see a ‘mass exodus’ of foreign residents this summer, ‘especially families with small kids,’ Schoen-Behanzin said. She said about half of Shanghai´s foreign residents had already left over the past two years.

‘People are really fed up with these lockdowns,’ she said. ‘It´s not safe, especially if you have small children.’

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