Shanghai to lift ‘unreasonable’ restrictions on businesses, Beijing eases restrictions
SHANGHAI/BEIJING – Shanghai said on Sunday that “unreasonable” restrictions on businesses will be lifted from June 1 as it seeks to lift its COVID-19 lockdown, while Beijing reopened parts of its public transport as well as some malls and other places like infections stabilized.
China’s mall of 25 million people is essentially aiming to end from Wednesday a two-month lockdown that has severely damaged the economy and seen many residents lose income, struggle to get food supplies and make facing isolation.
The painful coronavirus curbs in major Chinese cities run counter to trends seen in the rest of the world, which has largely attempted to return to normal life even as infections spread.
Shanghai, China’s most populous city, will end many conditions for businesses to resume work from June 1. The city has also launched measures to support its economy, including reducing some taxes on car purchases, accelerating the issuance of local government bonds and speeding up approvals for real estate projects.
Shanghai will ask banks to renew loans to small and medium enterprises for a total of 100 billion yuan ($15 billion) this year.
“We will fully support and organize the resumption of work and production of enterprises in various sectors and fields,” Vice Mayor Wu Qing told reporters, adding that the “unreasonable” COVID restrictions on enterprises would be lifted.
Wu did not give details of the restrictions that would be lifted.
Shanghai in April began publishing “whitelists” of major manufacturers in the automotive, life science, chemical and semiconductor industries allowed to resume operations.
But many of the priority businesses had suppliers who were unable to reopen and so they still faced logistical bottlenecks.
Many industry executives also complained about the onerous COVID restrictions as they needed to find sleeping quarters for staff trying to self-isolate and implement rigorous disinfection. Most businesses in the city are still closed.
All “whitelists” would be abolished, Wu said.
Earlier on Sunday, city government spokeswoman Yin Xin said Shanghai would ease testing requirements from Wednesday for people who want to enter public spaces, to encourage a return to work.
“The current epidemic situation in the city continues to stabilize and improve,” Yin said, adding that Shanghai’s strategy “pivots towards normalized prevention and control.”
People entering public places or taking public transport should present a negative PCR test carried out within 72 hours, compared to 48 hours previously.
Bus services in the Pudong New Area, home to Shanghai’s biggest airport and main financial district, will resume in full by Monday, officials said.
Plaza 66, a mall in central Shanghai that houses Louis Vuitton and other luxury brands, reopened on Sunday.
Authorities have slowly eased the brakes, with a focus on reviving manufacturing.
More people have been allowed to leave their homes and more businesses can reopen, although many residents remain largely confined to housing complexes and most shops are only open for delivery service.
Private cars are not allowed out without permission and most public transport in the city is closed. Authorities have yet to announce detailed plans on how the lockdown will be lifted.
GYM AND LIBRARIES
In the capital Beijing, libraries, museums, theaters and gymnasiums were allowed to reopen on Sunday, but with limits on the number of people, in districts that have seen no community cases of COVID for seven consecutive days. .
Fangshan and Shunyi districts will end work-from-home rules, while public transport will largely resume in both districts as well as in Chaoyang, the city’s largest. Yet dining out is banned across the city.
Shanghai reported just over 100 new COVID cases on Sunday, while Beijing recorded 21, both in line with a nationwide downward trend.
China’s economy has shown signs of recovery this month after a slump in April, but activity is weaker than a year ago and many analysts expect a contraction in the second quarter.
The strength and durability of any recovery will largely depend on COVID, with the highly transmissible variant of Omicron proving difficult to eliminate and prone to comebacks.
Investors are worried about the lack of a roadmap to exit the zero-COVID strategy of ending all epidemics pretty much at all costs, a flagship policy of President Xi Jinping. He is expected to get an unprecedented third term at the head of a ruling Communist Party congress in the fall.
Markets expect more support for the economy.
“We expect further policy easing on the fiscal front to stimulate demand, given the downward pressures on growth and the uncertainty of the pace of the recovery,” Goldman analysts wrote. Sachs in a Friday note.