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Today in Covid: Freedom in Phases... Shanghai 'Back to Normal' in June?

Rounding up the latest from lockdown
2022-05-16 12:00:00

Felt like a big news day, didn't it? Let's see what's happening out there in our much loved, much beleaguered city.

Shanghai gets a rough timeline for when all this will be over

Would have been nice to get this on our WeChat feed this morning:

"On — DAY X — you will be allowed to walk out onto the street without a pass and without being told to go home."

Or:

"On — DAY X — you can go to work or get a meal in a restaurant."

Or even this:

"On — DAY X — you can have XXXXXXXXXXXXX drinks in a bar."

But of course, we didn't get those messages. And perhaps we won't ever get those messages. Instead, today, we got a timeline of an opening up process that's going to take some weeks yet, as we triumphantly march through a new series of phases designed to gradually free the city — "gradually" is the popular word now — by the start of June.

Or the middle of June.

Something like that. June-ish.

If you're an optimist, you're seeing Monday, May 16 as the day the opening up processes STARTED. If you're a pessimist, you're seeing more of the same, as we kick the date another few weeks down the road.

Anyway. Now we're entering three phases of opening up, as outlined by Zong Ming, the vice mayor of Shanghai.

Phase 1: From today to May 21, residents in prevention areas will be able to "orderly release" but only limited activities and in restricted time frames. And subject to the approval of your neighborhood committee to "maintain a low level of social activity." In application, this means getting a pass to leave your compound to go to approved places — grocery store or pharmacy seems to be the options — provided you've got a negative nucleic acid test in the last 48 and a negative antigen in the last 24.

Phase 2: From May 22 to May 31, the number of closed and controlled areas will be further reduced till everyone is in a prevention zone.

Phase 3: From June 1 to mid-to-late June, the restoration of the "normal living and production" situation. The implementation of the standardized Covid prevention procedures. The lockdown will be over.

That's the broad strokes. There's a lot of other elements involved — public transportation coming back, malls / retail reopening, restaurants opening for take-out / delivery only, more essential businesses coming back — and that's all staggered vaguely into these three phases, with the majority coming in the first weeks of June, we imagine, at least for downtown Shanghai. See: the "restoration of the normal living and production situation."

So, Phase 1 started today. We spoke to a few people that are in prevention areas and should be able to go out today — including speaking to ourselves in the mirror — but it appears the word hasn't traveled yet from our vice mayor to the neighborhood committees. Some people are getting let out into their compounds when they hadn't been before. Some people have secured passes to shop in stores that aren't open to them yet. Some people are not seeing any change. The rules don't appear to be universally applied.

In terms of transportation, not much has yet changed for taxis and private cars in downtown Shanghai: you still need a pass to drive out. But from May 22, public transport will gradually be opened. Gradually. In terms of railway stations and airports, trains and flights will gradually recover from May 16. Gradually.

Regarding public services, they will be open with limited people flow. When? Gradually!

‘Closed' to ‘Prevention' status timeline shortened

Some good news. Especially for people who have experienced that soul-crushing circumstance when you're almost free and then you get another new case in your building. Reading further into the press release, the path going from "closed" to "controlled" to "precautionary" is now 10 days instead of 14. After the new case has been transported to quarantine, you spend 7 days in "closed"; if no more cases, then you spend 3 days in "controlled"; and then upgraded to "precautionary", with all the dizzying freedom that it comes with.

Chinese nationals can't leave the country for "unnecessary reasons"

This was last week's big news: China nationals are now restricted from traveling abroad for "unnecessary" reasons. In fact, China stopped issuing new passports or renewals to their citizens when they first closed the borders two years ago. Those who would still had a passport were able to leave. This has changed now. Officially, Chinese nationals are required to have good reason to leave. The include: study or work, hospital treatments, or taking care of a family member. This policy comes on the auspices of combating the spread of the virus.

Speaking to a few Chinese friends and colleagues that have left in the last few days, the policy doesn't seem to be very strictly implemented yet, and border control rather seems to suggest not to leave rather than actually stopping people from doing so.

Some lockdown reading: ‘Stay Negative' releases NFT collection

If you're looking for something clickable and distracting, SmartShanghai did a little interview with Shanghai-based art collective Stay Negative, who just released a collection of lockdown-inspired NFTs you can purchase, should you like to commemorate the most exciting time in your life. Read that right here.

Surprise: The economy isn't doing so well

The Global Times reports that China's April industrial production contracted by 2.9 percent year-on-year, while retail sales were down 11.1 percent, as effects of Omicron flareups' and disruptions on the economy. The unemployment rate climbed to 6.1% and the rate of unemployed 16-24-year-olds hits a record at 18.2%.

Meanwhile, a flash survey conducted by the German Chamber of Commerce in China, amongst their members, reveals that the strict anti-pandemic measures lead to expatriates leaving the country sooner than expected. Nearly one third (28%) of foreign employees of the surveyed companies plan to leave China due to COVID-19 related measures. 10% plans to do so even before their current employment contract ends.

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