Shanghai targets June 1 return to normal as COVID lockdowns cool economy

Shanghai, May 16 (BNA): Shanghai made plans on Monday to restore more normalcy from June 1 and end the painful COVID-19 lockdown that has lasted more than six weeks and contributed to a sharp slowdown in China’s economy. Activity.

In the clearest timeline yet, Vice Mayor Zhong Ming said Shanghai’s reopening will take place in phases, with movement restrictions still largely in place until May 21 to prevent a rebound in infections, before a gradual easing, Reuters reported.

“From June 1 to mid-to-late June, as long as the risks of a rebound in infection are controlled, we will fully implement epidemic prevention and control, normalize management, and fully restore production and normal life in the city,” she said. .

The full shutdown of Shanghai and COVID on hundreds of millions of consumers and workers in dozens of other cities has hit retail sales, industrial production and employment, adding to fears the economy will shrink in the second quarter.

The strict restrictions, increasingly out of step with the rest of the world, that have lifted COVID rules even as infections spread, are also sending shockwaves through global supply chains and international trade.

Data on Monday showed that China’s industrial output fell 2.9% in April from a year earlier, down sharply from a 5.0% increase in March, while retail sales contracted 11.1% year on year, after declining 3.5% in the previous month.

Both were well below expectations.

Analysts say economic activity probably improved somewhat in May, and the government and central bank are expected to implement more stimulus measures to speed things up.

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But the strength of the recovery is uncertain due to China’s tough “zero COVID” policy to eliminate all outbreaks at any cost.

“The Chinese economy could see a more significant recovery in the second half, except for a Shanghai-like shutdown in another major city,” said Tommy Wu, China economist at Oxford Economics.

“The risks to the outlook tend to be to the downside, as the effectiveness of the stimulus policy will depend largely on the scale of the COVID outbreak and its future shutdown.”

Beijing, which has been finding dozens of new cases almost every day since April 22, provides a strong indication of how difficult it is to tackle the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

The capital has not imposed a citywide lockdown, but it tightened restrictions on road traffic levels in Beijing last week to levels similar to those of Shanghai, according to GPS data tracked by Chinese internet giant Baidu.

On Sunday, Beijing expanded guidance to work from home in four regions. It has already banned dining services in restaurants and curtailed public transportation, among other measures.

In Shanghai, the vice mayor said the city will start reopening supermarkets, stores and pharmacies from Monday, but many restrictions on movement must remain in place until at least May 21.

It is not clear how many businesses have reopened.

From Monday, Zong said, China Railways will gradually increase the number of trains arriving and departing from the city. Airlines will also increase domestic flights.

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From May 22, bus and rail transportation will gradually resume, but people will have to show a negative COVID test no more than 48 hours to use public transportation.

During the lockdown, many Shanghai residents have been repeatedly disappointed by the shifting schedules for lifting restrictions.

Shanghai reported less than 1,000 new cases on May 15, all within strictly controlled areas.

In the relatively freer areas, those monitored to measure progress in stemming the outbreak, no new cases were found for the second day in a row.

The third day usually means that a ‘zero COVID’ status has been achieved and restrictions can begin to ease. Fifteen of the city’s 16 neighborhoods have reached “Zero COVID”.

Beijing recorded 54 new cases, up from 41.


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