hanghai started to ease its lockdown on Monday despite reporting a record of more than 25,000 new Covid-19 infections, as authorities strive to get the city moving again.
The Chinese financial hub has classed residential areas into three risk categories, allowing those in parts with no positive cases during a two-week stretch to engage in “appropriate activity” in their neighbourhoods.
It promises relief for some of the city’s 25 million residents, many of whom struggled to find food and medicine after being locked down in a battle against China’s biggest outbreak since coronavirus was first discovered in central Wuhan in late 2019.
City official Gu Honghui said Shanghai has been divided into 7,624 areas that are still sealed off, a group of 2,460 now subject to “controls” after a week of no new infections, and 7,565 “prevention areas” that will be opened up after two weeks without a positive case.
Those living in “prevention areas”, though able to move around their neighbourhoods, must observe social distancing and could find themselves sealed off again if there are new infections, he said.
Some have criticised the move as a big risk as the city added 25,173 new asymptomatic infections on Sunday, up from 23,937 the previous day.
“I think the Shanghai government has a secret plan to infect the whole of the Chinese people,” said one poster on the Weibo platform, using the name “The Star Broke the Ice”.
Others said authorities had no choice.
“I think this is the Shanghai government admitting it cannot continue locking down while ensuring that its citizens don’t starve to death,” said another Weibo user, posting under the name Ruan Yi.
China’s strategy remains unchanged, however, with national health official Liang Wannian saying the “dynamic clearance” policy was still Shanghai’s “best option”.
It was misleading to view Omicron as “big flu”, and lowering China’s guard would expose its huge elderly population to risk, especially as the virus mutates, said Mr Liang, the head of the National Health Commission’s working group on COVID-19.
“If we lie flat, the epidemic would just be a disaster for these kinds of vulnerable people,” the People’s Daily newspaper of the ruling Communist Party quoted Mr Liang as saying on a visit to the eastern city.