BEIJING / SHANGHAI – Shanghai on Saturday took a major step out of a week-long COVID-19 lockdown with plans to carefully restore part of its transportation network, as Beijing maintained its defenses in a month-long outbreak.
The lockdown in Shanghai since early April has dealt a heavy economic blow to China’s most populous city, sparking controversy over the stability of the country’s zero-quad policy and raising fears of future lockdowns and disruptions.
In contrast to the financial center, Beijing has refrained from imposing city-wide lockdowns, reporting dozens of new cases a day, compared to a few thousand at its peak in Shanghai. Nevertheless, sanctions imposed on the Chinese capital and endless public scrutiny have destabilized its economy and disrupted the lives of its people.
As Beijing remains embroiled in controversy, Shanghai workers were disinfecting subway stations and trains before the planned restoration of four metro lines on Sunday.
Although the service will be for limited hours, it will allow residents to travel between districts and meet the need for a connection between the railway station and one of the city’s two airports. More than 200 bus routes will be reopened.
Underlining the level of caution, Shanghai officials said passengers would be scanned for abnormally high body temperatures and show negative results of PCR tests taken within 48 hours.
Shanghai found 868 new local cases on Friday, up from 858 a day earlier, the municipal health authority said on Saturday, far from the peak of the daily caseload last month.
The health authorities added that no new cases were found outside the quarantine area less than three days earlier.
The city of 25 million has slowly reopened shopping malls, convenience stores and wholesale markets, and in recent days has largely eliminated community transmissions, allowing more people to leave their homes.
Nevertheless, Shanghai on Friday tightened sanctions in two of its 16 districts. A third district in central Shanghai on Saturday lifted the ban on residents and businesses.
Authorities “urge initiatives to strictly implement safe production, which is their responsibility, especially to meet certain epidemic prevention and control requirements,” an official with the city’s emergency bureau told a news conference Saturday.
Delta Airlines said Friday it will resume a daily flight from Shanghai to Detroit via Seoul on Wednesday.
Most of the recent incidents in Beijing have already taken place in sealed areas, but the authorities have remained on the brink and fast to act under China’s ultra-strict policy.
In Fengtai, a district, bus and metro stations with a population of 2 million people at the Counter Coveid Efforts Center in Beijing, most have been closed since Friday and residents have been told to stay home.
A Fentai resident was stockpiling groceries in a nearby carrefour on Saturday, with uncertainty over whether the restrictions would continue.
“I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do more shopping next week, so I bought a lot of things today and even bought some dumplings for the Dragon Boat vacation,” he said in early June, not to mention.
On Friday, thousands of residents in the vicinity of Chawang, Beijing’s most populous district, were relocated to Hotel Quarantine after some cases were identified, according to the state-run China Youth Daily.
Social media users on Weibo, such as China’s Twitter, were quick to draw parallels with Shanghai, where in some cases entire residential buildings were taken to centralized quarantine facilities in response to a single positive COVID case.
Although verified accounts from Nanxinyuan neighborhood residents have garnered thousands of comments and shares on Weibo, a related hashtag could not be searched on the platform on Saturday, citing online censorship.
“Probably … except for the Shanghai people, no one will feel Beijing’s Nanjinuan. However, I don’t know if there are people who will see this sentence, “wrote Shanghai-based director and actor Xie Tiantian Weibo.
Sun Shuwei, a tech startup worker, told Reuters that the situation in Nanjinuan, just 2 km (1.2 miles) from his home, had prompted him to consider leaving Beijing.
“It made me very excited,” Sun said. (Reporting by Eduardo Baptista, Judy Hua, Laura Lynn and Stella Cue; Writing by Ryan Woo; Editing by Richard Pulin, William Mallard and Clelia Ozil)