Shanghai has outlined plans for a return to normalcy on June 1 and the conclusion of the agonizing Covid-19 shutdown, which has lasted for more than six weeks and resulted in a significant slowdown in China's economic activity.
On Monday, Deputy Mayor Zong Ming announced that Shanghai's reopening would be conducted in stages, with movement restrictions generally remaining in place until 21 May to prevent a resurgence of illnesses, followed by a gradual easing.
"From June 1 through mid- to late-June, we will fully implement epidemic prevention and control, normalize management, and restore normal production and life in the city, as long as the risk of a resurgence in infections is contained," she said.
The complete lockdown of Shanghai and Covid restrictions on hundreds of millions of consumers and workers in dozens of other cities have negatively impacted retail sales, industrial production, and employment, increasing concerns that the economy may contract in the second quarter.
The harsh restrictions, which are increasingly out of sync with the rest of the globe, which has been relaxing Covid limits despite the development of illnesses, are also causing disruptions in global supply networks and international trade.
China's industrial output decreased by 2.9% in April compared to last year, a steep decline from March's 5.0% gain, while retail sales decreased by 11.1% year-over-year after falling by 3.5% the previous month.
Both fell far short of expectations.
According to economists, economic activity improved somewhat in May, and the government and central bank are anticipated to implement additional stimulative measures to speed things along.
Due to China's rigorous "zero Covid" policy of eradicating all outbreaks at all costs, the rebound's strength is questionable.
"China's economy could experience a more substantial recovery in the second half, barring a Shanghai-like lockdown in another major city," said Oxford Economics' chief China economist, Tommy Wu.
"The risks to the outlook are skewed to the downside, as the efficacy of policy stimulus will depend heavily on the magnitude of future Covid outbreaks and lockdowns."
Beijing's discovery of dozens of new cases nearly every day since April 22 demonstrates how difficult it is to combat the highly transmissible Omicron variety.
According to GPS data tracked by Chinese internet company Baidu, Beijing's road traffic levels dropped last week to levels comparable to Shanghai's. The capital has not imposed a citywide lockdown, but it has tightened restrictions on Beijing's road traffic levels close to Shanghai's.
Sunday, Beijing expanded work-from-home policies to four districts. It had already restricted public transportation and prohibited dine-in services at eateries, among other restrictions.
The deputy mayor of Shanghai stated that the city would reopen supermarkets, convenience stores, and pharmacies beginning on Monday. However, many movement restrictions would stay in place until May 21.
It is unclear how many businesses have resumed operations.
Zong stated that beginning on Monday, China's railway operator would progressively boost the number of trains coming and departing the city. Additionally, airlines would increase domestic flights.
From 22 May, bus and rail services would also progressively restart operations, but passengers would be required to present a negative Covid test within 48 hours.
Throughout the lockdown, some Shanghaiites have been dissatisfied with the shifting timelines for easing restrictions.
Last week, some residential complexes received notices that they would be in "silent mode" for three days, which usually entails residents being unable to leave their homes and, in some cases, receiving no deliveries. A further notice stated that the period of silence would be extended to May 20.
On the social media platform Weibo, one public member pleaded, "Please don't lie to us this time," adding a crying emoji.
On May 15th, Shanghai reported fewer than one thousand new cases, all of which were in regions with the toughest precautions.
No new cases were discovered for a second day in relatively more accessible areas, which are being watched to determine the progress of eradication.
Typically, "zero Covid" status is obtained on the third day, and limitations can begin to be relaxed. Fifteen of the city's sixteen districts were Covid-free.
Beijing reported an increase from 41 to 54 new cases.