After two months of frustration, despair and economic losses, Shanghai’s draconian Covid-19 lockdown ended at midnight on Wednesday, prompting celebrations tempered by fears of another outbreak.
Most of the 25 million people in Shanghai they can now freely leave home, return to work, use public transport and drive their cars, a moment that for many in China’s largest and most cosmopolitan city seemed never to come.
At midnight, small groups gathered in the city’s old French Concession neighborhood whistled, shouted “the ban has been lifted” and toasted with champagne.
Before, the avenues were animated as residents picnicked on grassy areas and children rode bicycles through car-free streets. The dancing pensioners, a common nocturnal image in Chinese cities, strutted for the first time in months in the open-air plazas and along the Huangpu River.
Shanghai Disneyland, which has yet to announce a reopening date, livestreamed a light show for “celebrate the lifting of the Shanghai lockdown”. They used a Chinese expression that also means “prohibition” and that the city authorities have prevented.
Under streetlights, barbers cut hair of residents left shaggy under lockdown. On the WeChat social network, businesses announced their reopening plans.
“I have taken the dog for a walk and he is very excited, because it has taken a long time to go outsaid Melody Dong, who was looking forward to Chinese casserole and barbecue, foods that are difficult to prepare at home.
The Shanghai ordeal has come to symbolize what critics say is the unsustainability of China’s adherence to a zero contagion policy which aims to cut off any chain of infections, at any cost, even as much of the world tries to get back to normal despite ongoing infections.
The lack of a roadmap to get out of an approach that is increasingly challenged by the highly contagious omicron variant has rattled investors and frustrated businesses.
The restrictions by Covid-19 in Shanghai China and many other Chinese cities have hit the world’s second-largest economy and complicated global supply chains, though case numbers have improved and restrictions have eased since the depths of April’s lockdowns.
China says its approach, a signature policy of President Xi Jinping, is necessary to save lives and prevent its health system from being overwhelmed. The uncertainty and discontent caused by management on Covid-19 in China they have created unwelcome turbulence in a delicate political year, in which Xi is about to secure a third leadership term.