“I walked the dog and the dog is pretty excited, because it has been a really long time for it to come outside,” said Melody Dong, who was looking forward to eating hot pot and barbecue – foods that are difficult to make at home.
Shanghai’s ordeal has come to symbolise what critics say is the unsustainability of China’s adherence to a zero-COVID policy that aims to cut off every infection chain, at any cost, even as much of the world tries to return to normal despite ongoing infections.
The lack of a roadmap to exit from an approach that is increasingly challenged by the highly contagious Omicron variant has rattled investors and frustrated businesses.
COVID-19 curbs in Shanghai and numerous other Chinese cities have battered the world’s second-largest economy and tangled global supply chains, although case numbers have improved and curbs have eased from the depths of April’s lockdowns.
China says its approach, a signature policy of President Xi Jinping, is needed to save lives and prevent its healthcare system from being swamped. The uncertainty and discontent caused by China’s COVID-19 management has created unwanted turbulence in a sensitive political year, with Xi poised to secure a third leadership term in the autumn.
“The mood tonight is a bit like high school days. On the eve of the school year I was full of expectations for the new semester but I feel a little uneasy in my heart,” wrote one user of the Twitter-like Weibo.
A CITY SCARRED
During two months, numerous residents of the country’s most important financial and economic hub struggled to get enough food or medical care. Families were separated and hundreds of thousands were forced into centralised quarantine facilities.
At the factories and offices that remained open – including those of Shanghai government officials – workers lived on-site in “closed-loops”, bunking on makeshift beds, with many of them only now able to return home.