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China reopens one city as Shanghai lockdown enters a second phase

The city of Shanghai is preparing to reopen its eastern half and shut its western half, while authorities elsewhere announced the lifting of a citywide lockdown in the province hit hardest by China’s omicron-driven coronavirus outbreak.

Residents of the city of Jilin will be able to move about freely starting from Friday for the first time in more than three weeks. They will be required to wear masks and, when indoors, stay one meter apart. Public gatherings in parks and squares are prohibited.

The spread of Covid-19 has been brought under control in Jilin city but not in the rest of Jilin province, officials said at a news conference.

Some progress has been made in Changchun, the provincial capital and a car manufacturing hub that has been locked down since March 11.

China has been battling its largest Covid-19 outbreak since the initial one in early 2020 that devastated the city of Wuhan and other parts of Hubei province.

By far, most of the cases have been in Jilin province, which borders North Korea in China’s industrial northeast. Smaller outbreaks have popped up across the country, including Shanghai, the financial capital and China’s largest city with 26 million people.

The two-phase lockdown of Shanghai, being carried out over eight days, has shaken global markets worried about the possible economic impact.

China’s manufacturing activity fell to a five-month low in March, a monthly survey showed on Thursday, as lockdowns and other restrictions forced factories to suspend production.

Pudong, the half of Shanghai on the east side of the Huangpu River, was to reopen at 5am on Friday after a four-day lockdown during which residents were tested for the coronavirus and isolated if the result was positive. A lockdown of Puxi on the west side of the river was starting at 3am.

About 16 million people will be tested in Puxi. Residents are not allowed to leave their neighbourhoods or housing compounds during the four-day lockdown, with groceries or meals delivered to their complexes.

On Thursday, China reported 8,559 new cases in the previous 24-hour period, of which 6,720 had no symptoms.

The proportion of asymptomatic cases has been higher than in previous outbreaks, particularly in Shanghai. About 100 of the new cases were imported ones among people who had recently arrived from abroad.

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