Shanghai further eased its grueling, weeks-long COVID-19 lockdown on Wednesday despite a mounting official death toll and tens of thousands of daily cases.
China’s largest city is ambling 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 on Wednesday, while also announcing 4 million more people had been released from the strictest version of lockdown.
Some factories have resumed operations and a total of 12 million residents previously barred from leaving their homes have in the past few days been given permission to venture outdoors.
Many are, however, still restricted to their residential compounds under an easing of the rules announced last Monday.
While Shanghai’s outbreak remains small compared with parts of the world getting used to living with the virus, it has rattled China’s inflexible virus response, and prompted rare glimpses of discontent usually wiped away by the “Great Firewall” of censorship.
On social media, Shanghai residents have vented about the tight movement restrictions, multiple rounds of mass testing, and lack of access to food and non-COVID medical care.