The Chinese megacities of Beijing and Shanghai started relaxation of corona measures† Across the country, the number of new infections dropped to 20 a day from 54 a day earlier. The capital Beijing reported eight new infections on Sunday, while Shanghai registered six.
The easing in China comes about two months after Shanghai ordered its residents to stay in their apartments. In the fight against the virus, the city authorities imposed strict restrictions on its residents. Millions of Chinese were put under strict quarantine, leading to desperate situations.
“Every building, every gate, every door must be strictly controlled,” said Qi Keping, director of Shanghai’s Yangpu Commercial District. City officials also closed the entrances to some apartment blocks and cordoned off entire streets with two-meter-high green fences. COVID tests were performed daily and positive cases were transferred to special quarantine facilities, sometimes outside the city.
The city of Beijing had begun tightening control of the virus about a month ago, but closed “only” a few neighborhoods.
On Sunday, the Shanghai authorities announced the first easing. For example, companies can continue their activities from Wednesday without first having to ask permission from the government, and major shopping malls in Beijing can reopen from Monday.
Public transport will also resume in the major business centers of both cities, while gyms and museums will reopen at half speed. However, restaurants may still only deliver or pick up orders.
“Local newspapers are nonetheless concerned about the scars that anti-pandemic measures and the consequent decline in growth are leaving society,” Goldman Sachs analysts said in a report.
The inhabitants of Shanghai are now theoretically able to move freely inside and outside the city. In practice, decisions are still made by neighborhood committees, leading to a vague set of rules. Some residents are allowed to go out, but only for a few hours on certain days of the week with a special passport. Elsewhere, going outside is still strictly forbidden.
The industry is starting up
It is currently unclear how quickly most companies will be able to resume normal production, as the implementation of corona measures may vary at the neighborhood level.
Tesla, meanwhile, has restored weekly production at its Shanghai plant to nearly 70 percent of normal. The carmaker is expected to increase production further this week.
At the end of March, the carmaker’s factory in Shanghai was closed for three weeks, which was a major setback for production. The factory can usually produce around 2,100 cars a day at full capacity.
There was also news last month that Tesla had created a “closed circuit” in Shanghai that forced workers to sleep on factory floors in sleeping bags while working twelve hours a day, six days a week.
Before workers are allowed to enter the factory, they must also be isolated for between 48 hours and 72 hours, according to Bloomberg. The isolation takes place in empty factories and an old military camp. Only after their isolation are they allowed to join their colleagues in the closed “bubble” of the factory.
NFTs as a protest
The events sparked a growing protest on social media despite the prevailing Chinese censorship. To escape that censorship, many city dwellers approached NFT marketplaces and offered videos and photos of the Shanghai shutdown. Stories of the hardships were shared, such as patients unable to receive medical treatment or lack of food. An important marketplace for this was OpenSea.