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Shanghai moves toward ending 2-month COVID-19 lockdown

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BEIJING — Shanghai authorities say they will take some major steps Wednesday toward reopening China‘s largest city after a two-month COVID-19 lockdown that has throttled the national economy and largely bottled up millions of people in their homes.

Full bus and subway service will be restored as will basic rail connections with the rest of China, Vice Mayor Zong Ming said Tuesday at a daily news conference on the city’s outbreak.

Schools will partially reopen on a voluntary basis for students and shopping malls, supermarkets, convenience stores and drug stores will continue to reopen gradually with no more than 75% of their total capacity. Cinemas and gyms will remain closed.

Officials, who set June 1 as the target date for reopening earlier in May, appear ready to accelerate what has been a gradual easing in recent days. A few malls and markets have reopened, and some residents have been given passes allowing them out for a few hours at a time. In at least some chat groups, cynicism about the slow pace and stop-and-go nature of opening up gave way Tuesday to excitement about the prospect of being able to move about freely in the city for the first time since the end of March.

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Shanghai recorded 29 new cases on Monday, continuing a steady decline from more than 20,000 a day in April. Li Qiang, the top official from China’s ruling Communist Party in Shanghai, at a meeting Monday was quoted as saying that the city had made major achievements in fighting the outbreak through continuous struggle.

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The success came at a price. Authorities imposed a suffocating citywide lockdown under China’s “zero-COVID” strategy that aims to snuff out any outbreak with mass testing and isolation at centralized facilities of anyone who is infected.

Schools will reopen for the final two years of high school and the third year of middle school, but students can decide whether to attend in person. Other grades and kindergarten remain closed.

Beijing, the nation’s capital, further eased restrictions Tuesday in some districts. The city imposed limited lockdowns, but nothing near a citywide level, in a much smaller outbreak that appears to be on the wane. Beijing recorded 18 new cases on Monday.

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