By David Stanway and Roxanne Liu
SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – Shanghai took further gradual steps on Friday to lift its COVID-19 lockdown as Beijing investigated cases where its strict restrictions affected other medical treatment as China continues its uneven exit from restrictions .
The financial hub and capital have been hotspots, with a severe two-month lockdown to stop a coronavirus spike in Shanghai and strict movement restrictions to quell a small but stubborn outbreak in Beijing.
The brakes hit the world’s second-largest economy even as most countries sought to return to something like normal.
China’s economy is now on the mend, but data shows only a dazzling and partial recovery, with businesses from retailers to chipmakers warning of slow sales as the country’s consumers rein in expenses.
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Power consumption by major industrial enterprises in Shanghai rose steadily in the first three weeks of May to 83 percent of 2021 levels, Ruan Qiantu, head of the city branch of China’s State Grid, told reporters.
The utility will work to avoid outages as demand recovers and peak summer consumption approaches, Ruan said. “We actively respond to business requests.”
As Shanghai, China’s most populous city, essentially aims to end its lockdown from Wednesday, authorities have allowed more people to leave their homes and more businesses to reopen over the past week. . But most residents remain confined to their concessions and most stores can only make deliveries.
The Pudong district, home to the port of Shanghai, the city’s biggest airport and main financial hub, reopened 115 bus routes on Friday. The city is slowly expanding public transport after reopening four of its 20 metro lines and more than 250 bus lines on Sunday.
More than 30 parks had reopened on Thursday, with visitor numbers capped at less than 50% of their maximum capacity, the Shanghai Daily reported. By Tuesday, another 70 parks will reopen.
Shanghai’s latest daily COVID case count was below 300, with no cases outside quarantine zones, as has been the case for most of the past two weeks. Beijing has reported 29 daily cases, down from 45 the day before.
This week, the capital stepped up quarantines, reduced workplace attendance and cracked down on people who flouted instructions. This strict approach has sometimes caused other problems.
Beijing officials are investigating incidents of delayed treatment of acutely ill patients, and some emergency department workers have been suspended, the state-backed People’s Daily said Friday.
A farmer named Song wrote on social media that his 32-year-old son died on May 11 in Beijing after waiting an hour with acute chest pain for an ambulance. Song said he was told there had been confusion over whether his son could be admitted due to COVID checks at local hospitals.
“This practice…caused irreparable loss to a peasant family with only one son and caused serious negative effects and defamation to the anti-epidemic effort,” Song wrote Thursday.
Cases of slow access to medical care for pregnant women and other non-COVID patients during lockdowns sparked outrage earlier this year in Shanghai and Xian.
Profits at Chinese industrial companies fell the fastest in two years in April, data showed on Friday, as high commodity prices and tight supply chains squeezed margins and disrupted factory activity.
Car sales in the world’s biggest car market have slowed dramatically, gamers are buying fewer consoles and consumers are unwilling to replace their existing smartphones or laptops.
But this month has seen some improvement.
Chinese electric vehicle maker Xpeng is ramping up deliveries after resuming double-shift production in mid-May at its factory in the southern city of Zhaoqing, chairman He Xiaopeng told analysts this week.
Tesla added a second shift at its Shanghai factory on Thursday.
Alibaba Group on Thursday cited pandemic risks and other uncertainties for not releasing a forecast for its new business year.
China’s central bank said on Thursday it would encourage more credit for small businesses.
(Reporting by Beijing and Shanghai bureaus; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by William Mallard)
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