China has signaled to resume some economic activities in its commercial and financial capital Shanghai which has been in citywide lockdown for the past three weeks in varying degrees. On Monday, Chinese authorities also officially acknowledged the first Covid-linked deaths in the city since March and reported the deaths of three people from Covid in Shanghai for the first time since the financial hub entered lockdown in late March.
Media reports quoted a release from the city’s health commission which said the three people were aged between 89 and 91, had several comorbidities, and were unvaccinated.
The Shanghai Commission of Economy and Information Technology said during the weekend that production will be resumed at key manufacturing sites lying idle since the beginning of April as authorities faced pressure from foreign diplomats, business groups and multinational firms calling for an easing of anti-coronavirus control measures amid reports of foreign capital outflow from the country.
According to local media reports, the Commission said, major companies in the fields of automobiles, semiconductors and biomedicines are to submit detailed plans about guarding against the spread of Covid-19 for the local health authorities to review before they are given the go-ahead to resume operations in the so-called closed-loop conditions.
No timeline to resume the economic operation is yet available. Shanghai’s anti-coronavirus control and prevention measures have dealt a huge blow to the automotive industry alone. The lockdown brought nearly all the thousands of automotive supply-chain firms based in Shanghai to a standstill including TESLA which reportedly lost production of almost 40000 vehicles.
The decision to ease the lockdown comes despite the continued spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of Covid-19. Shanghai added 24,820 new Covid-19 cases, 3,238 of them symptomatic, on Sunday. The city’s total number of infections has now crossed 350,000 since the outbreak began on March 1. Wu Jinglei, director of the Shanghai health commission, told a press briefing on Sunday that another round of mass testing would be conducted in the coming days to detect infections and cut transmission chains, as the city remained adamant about achieving its zero-Covid goal.
The city has conducted at least nine rounds of citywide mass testing on all of its 25 million residents since April 3.
In an unprecedented defiance of authorities, frustrated Chinese citizens rebelled against COVID lockdowns in many cities specially Shanghai that have brought food shortages, family separations and lost wages.
Videos on social media show citizens scuffling with health workers and screaming in anger from their apartment windows. Arrests and detentions for COVID-related rule-breaking surged in March, according to a search on the Weibo social media platform for police statements, posts by state agencies and state media reports.
Most infractions involve citizens trying to skirt rules such as reporting travel on a health app, falsifying COVID test results, and sneaking out of locked-down neighborhoods. Assaults on health workers also surged.