Shanghai aims to stop virus spread, ease rules by May 20

Shanghai said it plans to stamp out community spread of the virus and start opening up the city by May 20, the first time officials have set a timeline for ending one of the longest and most punishing lockdowns China’s enforced during the pandemic. 

The city aims to achieve “no community spread” in the middle of May, said vice mayor Wu Qing at a Friday briefing, using a Chinese term that refers to the period between May 11 and 20. 

The milestone, which officials define as three consecutive days of zero cases found outside of people already in quarantine, has so far eluded the financial center despite a lockdown that’s stretched to nearly six weeks. 

Shanghai will implement “orderly opening-up, limited movement, effective control and classified management” after achieving no community spread, Wu said. In its Covid Zero battle, China sees the stop of community spread as the point at which an outbreak can be considered contained. Southern tech hub Shenzhen and northeastern province Jilin began rolling back curbs and restarting manufacturing after a similar milestone was achieved.

While Shanghai has sporadically reported days with zero cases found outside of quarantine, it has yet to be able to sustain a three-day stretch. On Friday, the city reported four cases found in the community for Thursday, up from two the day before. 

Total infections also rebounded to 2,096 new cases for Thursday, up from 1,449 on Wednesday, the first increase in about two weeks. 

The lockdown imposed on Shanghai’s 25 million residents has been one of the worst and high-profile since the experience of Wuhan, where the pathogen first emerged in late 2019.

The city’s crisis has prompted other places in China to enact hardline measures at the merest sign of Covid flareups to avoid the social and economic dislocation endured by the financial hub. 

Setting a public target of May 20 to start easing restrictions reflects officials’ acknowledgment of the mounting frustration across the city, where some residents have been in lockdown for nearly 2 months. Many have had trouble accessing basic medical care and steady food supply during the lockdown, while anger has grown over at harsh measures like homes being fenced off and whole buildings of residents being taken away for quarantine over one infection. Bloomberg News