Date: Wednesday, May 18th, 2022
Source: Wall Street Journal
HONG KONG—Shanghai officials outlined plans for a phased reopening of shopping malls, supermarkets and other businesses, even as many residents in China’s financial hub remained confined to their locked-down homes.
Chen Tong, Shanghai’s deputy mayor, said Sunday that the city would begin allowing businesses to open on a limited basis starting Monday as daily Covid-19 infection cases continue to decline nearly two months into a hard lockdown of the city of 25 million people.
Mr. Chen characterized the city’s approach to the pandemic as entering a new transition phase, “from emergency response to normalized prevention and control.”
On Sunday, Shanghai health authorities reported roughly 1,200 new Covid cases for the previous day, from a high of more than 20,000 last month. Daily infection counts have been below 5,000 for nearly two weeks.
Many Shanghai residents reacted to the phased reopening plans with skepticism. Despite the falling case counts, neighborhood-level authorities have tightened restrictions across the city in recent days.
And, though many residential compounds have met the stated requirements for a loosening of strictures for several weeks, many are still confined to their homes. Other Shanghai residents pointed to Saturday’s announcement by the Asian Football Confederation that China had withdrawn from hosting the quadrennial Asian Cup soccer tournament, originally slated to be staged in the summer of 2023.
The withdrawal comes days after the Asian Games, set to be held in Hangzhou, a city roughly 100 miles to Shanghai’s southwest, in September this year, was postponed because of the pandemic.
Even so, the scrapping of China’s hosting duties for the Asian Cup, which was to be held across 10 Chinese cities in June and July 2023, was widely interpreted as a sign that any sense of normalcy in Shanghai or across China remains far in the future.
“You are canceling something that’s happening next year?” read a post on China’s Twitter-like Weibo social-media platform, echoing a widely shared sentiment. “Are they planning to turn the soccer pitches into makeshift hospitals?”
Frank Tsai, an American expatriate, doubts that life in Shanghai, a city he has called home for more than 15 years, will return to normal in the coming month or two.
“Even if the thousands of people in our compound stay negative and we’re allowed to leave the compound, the stores on our street won’t be open for a while, so what would we do?” said Mr. Tsai, founder of events consulting firm China Crossroads.
On Saturday, Mr. Tsai said, he set foot outside his apartment building for the first time—aside from his Covid tests—in more than six weeks.
In theory, many people have the right to leave their compounds under the conditions spelled out in the city’s pandemic measures, but in practice they haven’t been allowed to leave, he said. That’s because the grassroots-level Communist Party committees that implement policies, including in Mr. Tsai’s own compound, are often reluctant to loosen the reins too quickly, for fear of an uptick in positive cases.
Since late March, swaths of Shanghai have been placed under strict lockdown, with most residents of the city confined to their apartments and only allowed to step outside to undergo Covid testing. During the past month, some stores in Shanghai have been allowed to operate in a limited capacity.
The new rules announced Sunday broaden the range of businesses that can open, though with clear guidelines, such as designated entry and exit points for outlets and limits on how many people can be inside a hair salon.