SHANGHAI – China reported no new Covid-19 infections in Shanghai on Saturday for the first time since March, as the country’s latest outbreak eases after months of virus-related lockdowns and restrictions.
China is the last major economy still committed to a zero Covid strategy, eliminating new cases with a combination of targeted lockdowns, mass testing and lengthy quarantines.
The economic hub of Shanghai was forced into a months-long lockdown this spring during a Covid surge fueled by the fast-spreading Omicron variant, while the capital Beijing closed schools and offices for weeks due to a separate epidemic.
Infections have dwindled to a trickle in recent days, with Shanghai reporting zero locally transmitted cases on Saturday for the first time since the outbreak began in early March.
“As of June 24, 2022, Shanghai had no new confirmed cases of Covid-19 and no new asymptomatic domestic infections,” the city said in a statement.
The lockdown for Shanghai’s 25 million people was all but lifted in early June, but the metropolis is struggling to get back to normal as individual neighborhoods reinstated restrictions in response to new infections.
Millions of people across the city were placed under temporary lockdown again two weeks ago after the government ordered a new campaign of mass testing.
In Beijing, restrictions first imposed in May were eased as cases fell, but tightened again this month after a cluster of infection linked to nightlife emerged.
After days of mass testing and localized shutdowns, the “sky supermarket infection chain” – named after the popular bar frequented by patients – has been effectively shut down, authorities in Beijing said last week.
The city’s education office said on Saturday that all elementary and middle school students could return to their classrooms for in-person tutoring on Monday after the pub group delayed school reopening.
All school staff, students and parents are required to take a Covid-PCR test before returning to school and are asked to “limit outings and avoid gatherings”, said the education department official.
Beijing reported two new local infections on Saturday.
China insists the zero Covid policy is necessary to avert a health catastrophe, with officials citing unevenly distributed medical resources and low vaccination rates among the elderly as main concerns.
But the strategy has hit the world’s second-largest economy, and strict enforcement has also prompted rare protests, while the extreme isolation of foreign businesses and middle-class families has prompted them to hatch exit plans.
- AFP/ additional report by the Editor