Euphoria as Shanghai returns to life after two months of crippling lockdown

By Víctor Escribano

Shanghai, China, June 1 (EFE).- The majority of the 25 million Shanghai residents returned to the streets Wednesday, reveling in joy of their newfound freedom after more than two months of a traumatizing Covid-19 lockdown.

Authorities lifted the crippling confinement in the eastern Chinese metropolis at midnight, prompting some Shanghainese to celebrate in traditional way by setting off fireworks.

Social media videos showed some revelers with bottles of champagne raising a toast with friends and family, meeting for the first time since March end when the lockdown came into force.

After dawn, the euphoric scenes gave way to the long-awaited Shanghai normality of busy roads, traffic congestion, and people heading back to work even though many shops remained shut.

The shops that opened operated on a restricted 75 percent of their capacity. For now, gyms, museums and cinemas are also not authorized to open.

Since restaurants cannot accommodate diners, many opted to order take-outs and organized impromptu picnics in green areas of the downtown.

The city added 15 new infections, far from the peak of almost 28,000 in mid-April.

Despite the euphoria, Shanghai has not fully returned to its normalcy.

Around 90 percent of the population will be able to take to the streets “under conditions”.

Some 200,000 resident in the areas with new infections will still have to wait.

And those who enter public places with epidemic prevention requirements and take public transportation must carry a 72-hour-old negative nucleic acid test report.

For this purpose, the authorities have installed up to 15,000 sample collection kiosks, with a capacity of some 8.5 million tubes every day and more than 50,000 workers to carry out tests.

People waited in long queues in front of the makeshift test centers Wednesday morning.

The tests will be free until June 30, and they will cost 16 yuan ($2.4) after that.

But the authorities have not specified if the requirement would stay after the month end.

What brought relief to many was the withdrawal of the restrictions that confined the residents of the boisterous city to their homes for weeks, pushing them into frustration, mental stress, and economic losses.

The Paper, a digital newspaper in Shanghai, reported that the authorities closed the largest quarantine facility in the National Convention and Exhibition Center.

The government opened the center on Apr.9. It hosted almost 175,000 patients in the last nearly two months.

As people returned to near-normalcy, their masks hid not only the smiles of the newfound freedom but also the deep mental health scars left behind by the weeks of ruthless uncertainty.

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