After roughly 4 weeks of intense lockdown measures that have left Shanghai's 25+ million people scrambling for necessary supplies like food and medicine, local authorities have loosened lockdown measures on Wednesday, allowing 4 million people out of their homes for the first time since the lockdown - initially imposed as a 9 day 'staggered' lockdown - began.
Health official Wu Ganyu said the virus was "under effective control" for the first time in weeks in some parts of the city, according to the AP.
Under the latest changes, which shifted the status of parts of the city from "closed" to "controlled", people are allowed to leave their neighborhoods, but large gatherings are still banned.
On Wednesday, China's CHC reported 19,927 new cases in China’s mainland, including 2,761 of which had no symptoms. That marked the first time in nearly two weeks that China's daily tally had dipped below 20K new cases. Shanghai accounted for 95% of the total, or 18,902 cases, of which 2,495 had symptoms.
One local official told the SCMP that the battle against COVID in the city isn't over, but rather has reached a "critical moment."
"The battle against the virus in Shanghai is at a critical moment, so no let-up is allowed," the Shanghai government said in a statement, said Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan, who has been overseeing the city’s antivirus work since April 2. "Any relaxation in the anti-pandemic work is unacceptable."
Shanghai health authorities counted 7 new deaths in COVID-positive patients, although they insisted that the deaths were due to cancer, hearth disease and other ailments. All but two were over the age of 60. This brought the total COVID-linked fatality rate to 17.
On the production front, Shanghai has been trying to resume production at 666 key manufacturers, including Tesla and the massive chipmaker, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation. Tesla’s Gigafactory 3 in Shanghai, which has been idle since March 28, restarted the manufacturing of Model 3 and Model Y electric cars on Tuesday.
Since the lockdown began on March 28, people in Shanghai who tested positive but have no symptoms have been ordered into quarantine centers set up in exhibition halls and other public buildings. One Ukrainian woman who had been living in Shanghai for years described the brutal conditions in an interview with WSJ.
Also on Wednesday, the Ministry of Agriculture ordered local officials to ensure that lockdown measures wouldn't interfere with spring planting by the farmers who feed China’s 1.4 billion people, following warnings that the spring planting season might be disrupted by the lockdowns. The war in Ukraine has already badly disrupted agriculture in that country, which supplies a large portion of Europe's wheat and corn, among other crops.
But as Shanghai eases its COVID measures, other parts of China are seeing measures tighten. To wit, the Northeastern Chinese city of Harbin announced Wednesday that it is requiring local residents not to leave downtown areas unless necessary and negative COVID results are needed when leaving, according to a local government statement.