Shanghai reopens cinemas, but COVID risk ‘relatively high’

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Shanghai reopened most cinemas on Friday, with a plan to gradually resume daily activities thereafter. took off a two-month COVID-19 lockdown in June, as well as an attempt, as in some other Chinese cities, to contain spikes in infections.

In an effort to avoid a repeat of the testing that the 25 million-strong commercial center experienced in April and May, Shanghai’s strategy relies on frequent COVID testing, close contact tracing, and isolation of residential buildings and other facilities.

If it fails to contain the virus, tighter restrictions may be needed. This would be a dire prospect for its residents, who have just recovered from the loss of income, mental stress and poor access to basic necessities that arose during the lockdown.

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The latest outbreak in the city is associated with illegal karaoke services in the same building.

“The covert transmission has been taking place for some time, and the risk of further spread in the community remains relatively high,” National Health Commission spokesman Lei Zhenglong told reporters.

Several other cities across China also sought to quell outbreaks early on, once again raising concerns about China’s economic growth prospects and potential disruptions to supply chains and international trade.

The efforts that fueled disappointment among the Chinese in a challenging year for the ruling Communist Party, are part of China’s “COVID zero” strategy to root out any outbreaks as soon as they occur, despite the high cost.

On Thursday, state media quoted Premier Li Keqiang as saying the world’s second-largest economy is recovering from supply disruptions during the fight against COVID earlier this year, “but the foundation is unstable.”

China is facing geopolitical headwinds, a housing downturn and rising borrowing costs in most of its export markets, and some analysts say its growth target of around 5.5% this year may be out of reach.

People line up to get tested for COVID-19 at a nucleic acid testing center in Shanghai, China, 7 July 2022.

People line up to get tested for COVID-19 at a nucleic acid testing center in Shanghai, China, 7 July 2022.
(Reuters/Ali Song)

Chairman Xi Jinpingwho is expected to receive an unprecedented third term later this year, said China should not treat the virus as endemic, as much of the world is doing now, as it would endanger many lives.

With no end in sight to the fight against COVID-19, Chinese residents will have to put up with ruthless testing and the prospect of being quarantined at any time, among other inconveniences.

Shanghai will conduct another round of mass COVID testing on Saturday and Sunday, in line with the plan to test the entire population every weekend until the end of the month. The city has just completed a test campaign from Tuesday to Thursday.

Meanwhile, Beijing scrapped plans to mandate mandatory vaccinations for most people visiting crowded places after strong online backlash against the measure announced earlier this week. On Thursday, no new cases were detected in the capital.

Jurassic period

Shanghai reported 45 new COVID cases for July 7, up from 54 days earlier, mostly among people are already under quarantine sanctions.

The city is gradually reopening cinemas, theaters and other concert venues from Friday in line with its post-lockdown plans, although capacity is capped at 50%. According to Chinese media, some establishments have postponed the opening as a precautionary measure.

According to Maoyan Entertainment, movie ticket sales topped 1.4 million yuan ($208,868) by Friday afternoon, with Jurassic Dominion as the top-grossing movie.

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Most of Shanghai’s more than 300 cinemas have been closed since early March.

The total number of cases in China on Thursday was 478, up from Wednesday’s 409 – numbers that authorities in most other countries now largely ignore.

Most of the cases have been identified in the eastern province of Anhui, where more than 1 million people are in lockdown in small towns. There were dozens of new cases also in Jiangsu province, several in Shaanxi and others.

Lay from the NHC said that some places in China have been slow to vaccinate the elderly, and officials need to work harder. He did not specify regions.