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Shanghai says COVID outbreak is under control, but many remain locked down


Officials declared that Shanghai had achieved “societal zero,” a term used by the Chinese authorities to indicate no uncontrolled community transmission.

By Vivian Wang


Shanghai health officials said Tuesday that the city had brought the COVID-19 outbreak there under control, after a nearly two-month lockdown that disrupted residents’ access to food and medicine, stoked widespread public outrage and brought China’s financial center to a standstill.


At a news conference, officials pledged to restart normal life as soon as possible, with a goal of reopening fully by June. Some businesses, bus lines and parks had been allowed to resume operations Monday. Twelve trains were also allowed to leave from Shanghai’s Hongqiao train station Monday, with more than 6,000 passengers aboard, according to state news media.


The city recorded 823 new coronavirus cases Monday, all in people who had been in quarantine or in areas under increased surveillance. Officials declared they had achieved “societal zero,” a term used by Chinese authorities to indicate the absence of uncontrolled community transmission.


More than 620,000 cases and 576 deaths have been recorded in Shanghai’s recent outbreak, which began growing rapidly in March. It was the worst outbreak that China has faced since the virus first emerged in Wuhan in early 2020.


State media outlets shared images of residents buying groceries and getting haircuts.


“Shanghai’s cooking oil smell is returning,” said one hashtag promoted by Xinhua, the state news agency, using a Chinese phrase to describe daily life.


But even as state media celebrated, some Shanghai residents pushed back, noting that they were still under strict lockdown measures. Under the Xinhua post on Weibo, a Twitter-like platform, the most-liked comment was by a user who said they had just finished doing another mandatory coronavirus test and were still not allowed to leave their neighborhood. Others said they still could not receive deliveries and were running low on essentials.


Even in areas with looser restrictions, residents who were allowed to leave their neighborhoods had to first receive permission from neighborhood officials, and could only be out for a certain amount of time and in certain areas, state media acknowledged.


Schools remain closed, as do theaters, gyms and other cultural venues. The city would prioritize restarting work at industrial facilities, said Zong Ming, a deputy mayor.


In a widely shared article on WeChat, titled “Is ‘Shanghai’s cooking oil smell returning’ a lie?” a blogger there, Zhang Pei, wrote that many friends elsewhere had messaged her to congratulate her on the city reopening. But she did not know how to respond, as her complex remained sealed.


“We really feel like we are living in a parallel universe,” she wrote. “We don’t know who has gone to work, where has returned to business.”


In a jab at state news media’s tendency to dismiss any bad news as rumors or isolated incidents, she added: “When it’s good news, as long as it’s true in one place, that’s the same as it being true everywhere, and it’s not a rumor. When it’s bad news, as long as it’s not true everywhere, then that’s the same as it not existing.”

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