Shanghai announced on Tuesday a further easing of anti-COVID restrictions this week, a further step towards a complete lifting of the confinement which has lasted for two months, infuriates the 25 million inhabitants and strangles the economy.

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The Chinese economic capital was confined in stages from the end of March, in order to cope with an epidemic outbreak on a national scale, the worst since the start of the pandemic at the end of 2019.

Unlike many countries, China continues to apply a zero-COVID strategy, which includes imposing quarantines and lockdowns as soon as cases appear in order to avoid deaths.

After already easing several restrictions in recent weeks, the town hall said on Tuesday that residents of areas deemed to be low risk will be allowed to move freely in the city from Wednesday.

This important step towards the end of the containment will apply to about 22 million people, told the press Zong Ming, one of the deputy mayors of Shanghai.

From midnight Wednesday (4:00 p.m. GMT Tuesday), “the city will enter the third phase (of deconfinement), with a complete but gradual return to normal,” she said.

Shopping malls, convenience stores, pharmacies and beauty salons will be able to operate at 75 percent capacity, Zong said.

Sports halls and cinemas will remain closed and the reopening of schools will be done on a case-by-case basis.

Shanghai media have released photos of officers in orange gear removing some of the barriers that have been blocking areas of the city for weeks.

Until then, the population could generally only go out for a few hours a day at best, provided they were in a neighborhood without any cases.

Taxis and private cars will a priori be able to circulate again on the roads in so-called low-risk areas on Wednesday, while public transport will resume.

People who live in areas considered “high risk” will still be subject to travel restrictions.

The Ministry of Health reported 31 new positive cases in Shanghai on Tuesday, up from more than 25,000 at the end of last month.

The shutdown of the city, the most populous in China, has weakened the economy, penalized production, limited consumption and seriously disrupted supply chains.