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Shanghai to re-open subways as restrictions ease

BEIJING (AP) – The locked-down Chinese metropolis of Shanghai will re-open four of its 20 subway lines on Sunday as it slowly eases pandemic restrictions that have kept most residents in their housing complexes for over six weeks.

The city will also restart 273 bus lines connecting major urban centres, airports, train stations and hospitals as it resumes cross-district public transit, director of the Shanghai Transport Commission Yu Fulin said at a daily pandemic briefing yesterday.

It wasn’t immediately clear how frequent the service would be.

Bus service resumed on a trial basis within three outlying districts this week, with buses running every 30 to 90 minutes during daylight hours.

The lockdown of China’s largest city dealt a blow to the economy and frustrated residents, particularly as many countries elsewhere in the world move away from such measures as they try to live with the virus. But officials stuck to a “zero-COVID” approach, saying that lifting restrictions could strain the public health system and lead to more deaths, particularly among the not fully vaccinated elderly.

A man stands on a bridge over an expressway in Beijing. PHOTO: AP

The outbreak in Shanghai has taken 580 lives, according to official statistics, making it the deadliest one in China since the initial outbreak in the city of Wuhan in early 2020.

Even as the number of new COVID-19 cases plummets, authorities are relaxing restrictions in a slow and deliberate manner as they try to ensure that the virus no longer spreads anywhere outside of quarantine facilities and areas with known infections.

The city of 25 million people recorded about 700 new cases on Wednesday, accounting for most of the about 1,000 cases nationwide.

Although most downtown areas remain in some form of lockdown, some of Shanghai’s outlying suburbs were showing signs of normalcy.

Residents in Jinshan district in the southwest could be seen shopping at a farmers’ market, buying grilled meat and bubble milk tea on a shop-lined street and getting haircuts, in a video broadcast by the Shanghai Media Group.

In Beijing, which reported 55 new cases, some subway stations and bus lines are closed, dining in restaurants is banned and residents are strongly encouraged to work from home as authorities try to prevent a Shanghai-scale outbreak in the Chinese capital.