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Shanghai starts coming back to life as COVID lockdown eases

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A store serving breakfast opens, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday toward reopening ...
A restaurant sells meat to residents, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday toward reope...
Residents line up to buy vegetables at a market, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday t...
A resident exercises along the bund as day breaks, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday...
A resident wearing mask takes photos along the bund as day breaks, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major...
Customers buy fish from a store that reopened for the first time after a two months lock down, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorit...
Residents at the bund walk across from the Oriental Pearl Tower as day breaks, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they wil...
A resident takes a selfie near the Oriental Pearl Tower along the bund as day breaks, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say t...
A resident wearing a gas mask exercises along the bund as day breaks, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take ma...
Residents stand near a traffic light during the early hours, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps...
Residents wearing masks exercise along the bund as day breaks, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major ste...
A cat sits on the pavement during the early hours, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday...
A vendor sells breakfast, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday toward reopening China's...
A worker prepares a serving of fried buns, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday toward ...
A resident walks with her grocery, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday toward reopenin...
Fresh prawns are delivered to a store that reopened for the first time after a two-months lockdown, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai aut...
Workers at a restaurant prepare to make buns, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday towa...
A fish jumps as a customer picks a selection to be prepared by the vendor, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will ta...
Residents go out on the street, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday toward reopening C...
A child poses for a photo near a sculpture of a bull along the bund as day breaks, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they...
Residents cross the road near the bund as day breaks, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednes...
A resident takes his dog out grocery shopping, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday tow...
A resident puts out blankets to dry, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday toward reopen...
Residents share a bike as they ride on an empty street, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wedn...
A man wearing a face mask takes a nap at a shopping and office complex in Beijing, Wednesday, June 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
People wearing face masks walk past a table filled with bagged orders at a restaurant open only for takeout service due to coronavirus-related restric...
A delivery driver wearing a face mask walks through a plaza at a shopping and office complex in Beijing, Wednesday, June 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Schie...
Residents wearing masks exercise along the bund as day breaks, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major ste...
A delivery driver wearing a face mask walks down a staircase at a shopping and office complex in Beijing, Wednesday, June 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Schi...
Residents pose for photos along the bund, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Traffic, pedestrians and joggers reappeared on the streets of Shanghai...
Residents wearing mask visit a store decorated with a dragon sculpture, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Traffic, pedestrians and joggers reappea...
Residents wearing masks walk past a display showing a shark, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Traffic, pedestrians and joggers reappeared on the ...
Residents wearing masks walk through a retail street, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Traffic, pedestrians and joggers reappeared on the streets...
Residents line up outside a mall for mass COVID-19 testing, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Traffic, pedestrians and joggers reappeared on the s...
A police patrol vehicle monitors the crowd along the bund, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Traffic, pedestrians and joggers reappeared on the st...
Children play as the Shanghai city skyline is lit near dusk along the bund, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Traffic, pedestrians and joggers rea...
A police officer walks past a shuttered Apple store and advertising for Shanghai city, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Traffic, pedestrians and ...
Residents enjoy the view at dusk along the bund, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Traffic, pedestrians and joggers reappeared on the streets of S...

A store serving breakfast opens, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday toward reopening ...

A restaurant sells meat to residents, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday toward reope...

Residents line up to buy vegetables at a market, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday t...

A resident exercises along the bund as day breaks, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday...

A resident wearing mask takes photos along the bund as day breaks, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major...

Customers buy fish from a store that reopened for the first time after a two months lock down, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorit...

Residents at the bund walk across from the Oriental Pearl Tower as day breaks, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they wil...

A resident takes a selfie near the Oriental Pearl Tower along the bund as day breaks, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say t...

A resident wearing a gas mask exercises along the bund as day breaks, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take ma...

Residents stand near a traffic light during the early hours, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps...

Residents wearing masks exercise along the bund as day breaks, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major ste...

A cat sits on the pavement during the early hours, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday...

A vendor sells breakfast, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday toward reopening China's...

A worker prepares a serving of fried buns, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday toward ...

A resident walks with her grocery, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday toward reopenin...

Fresh prawns are delivered to a store that reopened for the first time after a two-months lockdown, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai aut...

Workers at a restaurant prepare to make buns, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday towa...

A fish jumps as a customer picks a selection to be prepared by the vendor, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will ta...

Residents go out on the street, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday toward reopening C...

A child poses for a photo near a sculpture of a bull along the bund as day breaks, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they...

Residents cross the road near the bund as day breaks, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednes...

A resident takes his dog out grocery shopping, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday tow...

A resident puts out blankets to dry, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday toward reopen...

Residents share a bike as they ride on an empty street, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wedn...

A man wearing a face mask takes a nap at a shopping and office complex in Beijing, Wednesday, June 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

People wearing face masks walk past a table filled with bagged orders at a restaurant open only for takeout service due to coronavirus-related restric...

A delivery driver wearing a face mask walks through a plaza at a shopping and office complex in Beijing, Wednesday, June 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Schie...

Residents wearing masks exercise along the bund as day breaks, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Shanghai authorities say they will take major ste...

A delivery driver wearing a face mask walks down a staircase at a shopping and office complex in Beijing, Wednesday, June 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Schi...

Residents pose for photos along the bund, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Traffic, pedestrians and joggers reappeared on the streets of Shanghai...

Residents wearing mask visit a store decorated with a dragon sculpture, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Traffic, pedestrians and joggers reappea...

Residents wearing masks walk past a display showing a shark, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Traffic, pedestrians and joggers reappeared on the ...

Residents wearing masks walk through a retail street, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Traffic, pedestrians and joggers reappeared on the streets...

Residents line up outside a mall for mass COVID-19 testing, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Traffic, pedestrians and joggers reappeared on the s...

A police patrol vehicle monitors the crowd along the bund, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Traffic, pedestrians and joggers reappeared on the st...

Children play as the Shanghai city skyline is lit near dusk along the bund, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Traffic, pedestrians and joggers rea...

A police officer walks past a shuttered Apple store and advertising for Shanghai city, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Traffic, pedestrians and ...

Residents enjoy the view at dusk along the bund, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Shanghai. Traffic, pedestrians and joggers reappeared on the streets of S...

SHANGHAI (AP) — Traffic, pedestrians and joggers reappeared on the streets of Shanghai on Wednesday as China’s largest city began returning to normalcy amid the easing of a strict two-month COVID-19 lockdown that has drawn unusual protests over its heavy-handed implementation.

Shanghai’s Communist Party committee, the city’s most powerful political body, issued a letter online proclaiming the lockdown's success and thanking citizens for their “support and contributions." The move came amid a steady rollback in compulsory measures that have upended daily life for millions while severely disrupting the economy and global supply chains.

While defending President and Communist Party chief Xi Jinping’s hardline “zero-COVID" policy, the country’s leadership appears to be acknowledging the public backlash against measures seen as trampling already severely limited rights to privacy and participation in the workings of government.

In one such step, the Cabinet’s Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism issued a letter Tuesday laying out rules banning “non-standard, simple and rude indoor disinfection” by mostly untrained teams in Shanghai and elsewhere that have left homes damaged and led to reports of property theft.

Full bus and subway service in Shanghai was being restored from Wednesday, with rail connections to the rest of China to follow. Still, more than half a million people in the city of 25 million remain under lockdown or in designated control zones because virus cases are still being detected.

The government says all restrictions will be gradually lifted, but local neighborhood committees still wield considerable power to implement sometimes conflicting and arbitrary policies. Negative PCR tests for the coronavirus taken within the previous 48 to 72 hours also remain standard in Shanghai, Beijing and elsewhere for permission to enter public venues.

That measure didn’t deter people in Shanghai from gathering outside to eat and drink under the watch of police deployed to discourage large crowds from forming.

“With the lockdown lifting, I feel very happy. I feel today how I feel during Chinese New Year — that kind of mood and joy," said Wang Xiaowei, 34, who moved to Shanghai from the inland province of Guizhou just a week before the lockdown began.

Liu Ruilin, 18, said she wasn't sure her building's security guard would let her and others out on Tuesday night. The restriction ended exactly at midnight, she said.

“Then we said, ‘Let’s go to the Bund to have fun,'" she said in the city's historic riverside district. “We thought there wouldn’t be too many people here, but we were surprised after coming over that a lot of people are here. I feel pretty good — quite excited."

Schools will partially reopen on a voluntary basis, and shopping malls, supermarkets, convenience stores and drug stores will gradually reopen at no more than 75% of their total capacity. Cinemas and gyms will remain closed.

Health authorities on Wednesday reported just 15 new COVID-19 cases in Shanghai, down from a record high of around 20,000 daily cases in April.

A few malls and markets have reopened, and some residents have been given passes allowing them out for a few hours at a time.

The lockdown has prompted an exodus of Chinese and foreign residents, with crowds forming outside the city’s Hongqiao Railway Station, where only some train services have resumed.

Even while the rest of the world has opened up, China has stuck to a “zero-COVID” strategy that requires lockdowns, mass testing and isolation at centralized facilities for anyone who is infected or has been in contact with someone who has tested positive.

The country’s borders also remain largely closed and the government has upped requirements for the issuance of passports and permission to travel abroad.

At least half of foreign companies in Shanghai are waiting until next week to reopen while they put in place hygiene measures, said Bettina Schoen-Behanzin, a vice president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China. As a precaution, many companies plan to have only half their workforce on site at a time.

“There is still quite some uncertainty and a scare that if there is a positive case in the office building or in your compound, you might be locked down again,” said Schoen-Behanzin, who works in Shanghai.

The strict restrictions in Shanghai, the country’s commercial capital and home of the world’s busiest port, dragged down Chinese economic activity and disrupted global manufacturing and trade.

Retail sales fell by a worse-than-forecast 11% in April from a year earlier, government data show. Auto sales fell by almost half from a year earlier, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Private sector forecasters have cut their estimates for this year’s economic growth to as low as 2%, well below the ruling Communist Party’s target of 5.5%. Some expect output to shrink in the three months ending in June.

“The economy is really in a crisis,” said Schoen-Behanzin.

The Port of Shanghai, the world’s busiest, appears to be back to 80% to 85% of its normal operating capacity, according to Schoen-Behanzin. She cited data that said the port had a backlog of 260,000 cargo containers in April.

“The rest of the world will feel these delays probably (through) June or July,” she said.

The city will likely see a “mass exodus” of foreign residents this summer, “especially families with small kids,” Schoen-Behanzin said. She said about half of Shanghai’s foreign residents had already left over the past two years.

“People are really fed up with these lockdowns,” she said. “It’s not safe, especially if you have small children.”

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Associated Press Business Writer Joe McDonald contributed to this report from Beijing.

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This version has corrected the timing on PCR tests to a range rather than only 48 hours before being permitted to enter a public venue.