Shanghai yesterday reopened a small part of the world’s longest subway system after some lines had been closed for almost two months, as the city paves the way for a more complete lifting of its painful COVID-19 lockdown next week.
With most residents not allowed to leave their homes and restrictions tightening in parts of China’s most populous city, commuters early yesterday needed strong reasons to travel.
Shanghai’s lockdown and curbs in other cities have battered consumption, industrial output and other sectors of the Chinese economy in recent months, prompting pledges of support from policymakers.
Many who ventured out in the commercial hub wore blue protective gowns and face shields. Inside the carriages, passengers were seen keeping some empty seats between themselves. Crowds were small.
Xu Jihua, a migrant construction worker, arrived at a subway stop before it opened at 7am, hoping to get to a rail station, then home to the eastern province of Anhui.
“Work stopped on March 16,” Xu said, adding that he had not been able to earn his monthly 7,000-to-8,000 yuan (US$1,046 to US$1,195) salary since then and would only return to Shanghai once he was sure he could find work.
Four of the 20 lines reopened, and 273 bus routes. Some had closed in late March, others later, although sporadic service continued with a limited number of stops.
The city of 25 million expects to lift its citywide lockdown and return to more normal life from Wednesday next week. Most restrictions on movement would remain in place this month.
Shanghai’s 800km metro system averaged 7.7 million rides a day in 2020, according to the latest data, with an annual passenger throughput of 2.8 billion.
Trains are to run 20 minutes apart for limited hours. Commuters must scan their body temperature at the entrance and show negative results of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests taken within 48 hours.
Shanghai has gradually reopened convenience stores and wholesale markets, and allowed more people to walk out of their homes, with community transmissions largely eliminated.
Still, parts of the city have recently tightened curbs, underlying the difficulty of resuming normal life under China’s “zero COVID-19” policy, which is increasingly at odds with the rest of the world.
Jingan, a key commercial district, said on Saturday it would require all shops to shut and residents to stay home until at least tomorrow, as it carries out mass testing.
The use of exit permits, previously given to residents that allowed them to leave their homes for short walks, will be suspended, authorities said without giving a reason.
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