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Shanghai cautiously eases lockdown as deaths rise

China’s largest city is inching towards reopening.

Image: Mark Schiefelbein via PA

SHANGHAI FURTHER EASED its weeks-long Covid-19 lockdown today despite mounting deaths and tens of thousands of new cases — but some residents are furious that uneven enforcement is still leaving them trapped at home.

China’s largest city is inching towards reopening as businesses and residents grow increasingly desperate over closures and food shortages.

Faced with the country’s worst virus outbreak in two years, Shanghai has confined most of its 25 million people to their homes since last month, doubling down on the Communist Party’s unrelenting zero-Covid approach.

But the surge, driven by the fast-spreading Omicron variant, has thwarted official efforts to avert a pandemic rebound, with more than 400,000 infections reported since March.

City authorities confirmed seven Covid-19 deaths and more than 18,000 mostly asymptomatic new cases today, while also announcing four million more people had been released from the strictest version of lockdown.

Some factories have resumed operations while requiring workers to live on-site, and 12 million people previously barred from leaving their homes have in the past few days been given permission to venture outdoors.

However, many were disappointed at being denied a taste of freedom — despite their housing being classified in the lowest tier of restrictions as of today.

Residents of compounds without new cases in the past 14 days can move about freely — in theory.

But enforcement has been uneven and many in these “precautionary areas” have complained online of being denied permission to leave their housing compounds.

A resident of Shanghai’s Jing’an district who gave her name as Lilian told AFP that despite living in a “precautionary area”, her compound has barred entry and exit without a 48-hour negative test result.

“In any case, all the surrounding shops, pharmacies and markets are closed so there is no need to go out,” she told AFP.

She added that her neighbourhood committee cancelled a planned mass PCR test of her compound after many residents protested about the risk of cross-infection.

“What I don’t understand is why should a healthy person be forced to prove that they’re healthy?” she said.

Another Shanghai resident wrote on the Twitter-like Weibo platform that she was “secretly delighted” that authorities had declared “zero Covid at the community level” in her district this morning.

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“Shortly after, I heard a loud commotion downstairs — two construction workers were reinforcing barriers in front of my compound gate after 20 days of being locked down.”

One Weibo user wrote of her jealousy at seeing a neighbour walking their dog on the street.

“She self-righteously said she lives in a precautionary area, then arrogantly walked away,” she wrote.

“I live in a precautionary area too! Why can’t I go out?”

© AFP 2022  

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