Shanghai officials say they will take significant steps on Wednesday to open China’s largest city after awas implemented during the worst wave of infections since the start of the pandemic.
The lockdown lift in the city of 25 million people means public transportation will resume, and residents will no longer need passes to travel from their buildings to go outside for a few hours.
“This is a day that we dreamed of for a very long time,” Shanghai government spokeswoman Yin Xin told reporters, Reuters reports. “Everyone has sacrificed a lot. This day has been hard-won, and we need to cherish and protect it, and welcome back the Shanghai we are familiar with and missed.”
The lockdown sparked rare protests in Shanghai as manufacturing and exports took a hit, slowing international trade, Reuters reports.
The hardships of the lockdown have raised questions about the Chinese government’s adherence to its hardline “zero-COVID” strategy, CBS News’ Lucy Craft reports. The original plan was to do a two-phase roll out of the lockdown, so as not to disrupt work in the international business hub. That plan was soon abandoned.
The Pudong and Puxi districts were supposed to lock down at different times, but both remained shuttered for longer than anticipated. Streets had police checkpoints manned by workers in hazmat suits and residents were to remain in their homes, only leaving to get mandatory COVID-19 tests.
China has reported about 2.4 million COVID-19 cases, according to Johns Hopkins. More than 88% of its population is vaccinated.
It is the only major country enforcing a “zero COVID” and while Shanghai brought COVID under control, it was at “very significant personal and economic cost,” Julian MacCormac, chair of the British Chamber in China, told Reuters.
Many countries in Europe and cities in the United States implemented lockdowns at the start of the pandemic to “flatten the curve” or prevent the spread of COVID-19 from increasing. Many were lifted within weeks or months, will less strict protocols in place, like mandatory mask-wearing while in public spaces.