Shanghai’s iconic park revived as COVID restrictions ease


SHANGHAI – Zhu Rongfang was among a group of friends revisiting their favorite haunt in the center of Shanghai’s historic old town on Thursday after the easing of COVID-19 restrictions that had confined many of the city’s 25 million residents city ​​at home for two months.

The 65-year-old pensioner said she had found a sense of freedom which was “very nice”.

“The vibe during lockdown is very different to now, really. Now it’s kind of a re-release, a feeling of being liberated,” Zhu said.

Zhu was taking photos in front of the City God Temple and its scenic pond that sits at the center of Yuyuan Garden, which is usually bustling with visitors from overseas and China.

Restaurant dining is still banned in Shanghai, Beijing and other Chinese cities and many communities remain under varying levels of lockdown. Shanghai authorities have recalled some of the more intrusive measures that have prompted rare public protests, but local Communist Party neighborhood committees have continued to restrict how far and how long residents can venture out.

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Xia Huzheng, owner of a traditional instrument shop in Yuyuan Garden, said he hoped tourists would return despite China largely keeping its borders closed. Travel between towns and even within districts is discouraged, but not officially prohibited.

“No foreigners, much less visited and fewer tourists. Should be better, right? It will gradually recover,” said Xia, 51, who has been playing the Xiao flute and selling Chinese classical musical instruments for more than 20 years.

China is sticking to a “zero-COVID” strategy that requires lockdowns, mass testing and isolation of those infected or in contact with someone who tested positive.

This has had a major impact on the national economy and the supply chains of manufactured goods that depend on Chinese producers.

Job prospects for migrant workers and the 11 million new university graduates have been drastically reduced and private sector forecasters have cut their estimates of this year’s economic growth to just 2%, well below the target for 5.5% of the Communist Party in power.

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Shanghai reported just 13 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, raising hopes that all restrictions will soon be lifted.

Outlets in the city’s main business districts have gradually resumed work, opening their doors to customers who have yet to show a negative test result within the last 72 hours.

“Today, more than 90 percent of our stores and merchants are operating normally,” said Hu Huiya, an executive at the Plaza66 office and retail complex in central Shanghai.

Shopkeepers told the Shanghai Media Group that customers showed a strong desire to shop on the first day of reopening.

“Now the whole flow of passengers is the kind of scene we could only see the weekend before the lockdown,” said Shi Jing of Florentia Village, a designer store in Shanghai’s Pudong district.

The city’s metro lines also resumed operations on Wednesday, although passenger numbers remained at half their pre-lockdown levels, reflecting an exodus of migrants who queued for hours at stations and airports to get home.

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