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Coronavirus Update: Excitement in Shanghai as officials promise reopening after two-month lockdown, and cases continue to flatten in U.S. Northeast

There was excitement in Shanghai Tuesday after officials said they would take some major steps Wednesday toward reopening and ending a two-month COVID-19 lockdown in China’s largest city that has kept most residents confined to their homes.

Full bus and subway service will be restored as will basic rail connections with the rest of China, Vice Mayor Zong Ming said Tuesday at a daily news conference on the city’s outbreak, the Associated Press reported.

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

 In at least some chat groups, cynicism about the slow pace and stop-and-go nature of opening up gave way Tuesday to excitement about the prospect of being able to move about freely in the city for the first time since the end of March.

Shanghai counted just 29 new COVID cases on Monday, well below the roughly 20,000 a day it was recording in April. Li Qiang, the top official from China’s ruling Communist Party in Shanghai, at a meeting Monday was quoted as saying that the city had made major achievements in fighting the outbreak through continuous struggle.

Despite censorship, videos shared online show growing desperation and anger at prolonged Covid-19 lockdowns in China’s economic capital of Shanghai, where officials are trying to solve issues including food shortages while doubling down on the country’s strict pandemic policy. Photo Composite: Emily Siu

The news was welcomed by investors who sent oil prices surging 3.7% on expectations the reopening would help restart the economy as Shanghai is a major manufacturing hub.

In the U.S., cases may be stabilizing after climbing steadily since the end of March thanks to the highly infectious omicron variant and its subvariants.

The U.S. is averaging 109,105 cases a day, up 14% from two weeks ago, according to a New York Times tracker. But cases are flattening in states in the Northeast that were recent hot spots, including New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island. They are rising, however, in the South and Southwest and have more than doubled in Arizona, South Carolina and West Virgina over the last two weeks.

 The country is averaging 26,781 hospitalizations a day, up 20% from two weeks ago but far below the January omicron peak of more than 150,000. The daily death toll stands at 368 on average, up 22% from two weeks ago.

Coronavirus Update: MarketWatch’s daily roundup has been curating and reporting all the latest developments every weekday since the coronavirus pandemic began

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• Nasal vaccines as protection against COVID-19 are being studied in seven clinical trials, according to Mayuresh Abhyankar, a University of Virginia researcher, who explains that vaccinating someone right where the coronavirus is likely to start its attack comes with many immunological benefits. Intranasal vaccines are best suited to protect against pathogens that enter through the nose, like the flu or the coronavirus. By mimicking the first step of natural exposure to an airborne pathogen, these vaccines help train a person’s immune system at the potential place of infection.

• The World Health Organization’s governing board agreed on Monday to form a new committee to help speed up its response to health emergencies like COVID-19, as Reuters reported. The agency has faced criticism for its handling of the pandemic, including for delays early on in the crisis. Some disease experts say that governments and the WHO must avoid repeating such early missteps with other outbreaks like monkeypox. The resolution, passed unanimously at the 34-member Executive Board’s annual meeting, will form a new ‘Standing Committee on Health Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response’ to help address some of the perceived shortcomings.

North Korea is facing a surge in fever cases after reporting its first local Covid-19 infection in mid-May. WSJ examines Kim Jong Un’s strategy to battle the pandemic in the impoverished country, which has little testing capacity and an unvaccinated population. Photos: KCTV; STR/AFP

• U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come under fire again after leaked text messages reported over the weekend suggested that he and his wife met two friends in their flat on the prime minister’s birthday, 19 June 2020, when indoor socializing was banned, the Guardian reported. The social event was not considered by the recent inquiry into breaches of COVID rules by Johnson and his fellow Tories, a scandal named “partygate” that has led to calls for Johnson to resign.

• A Beijing man has landed thousands of his neighbors in quarantine after he ignored an order to stay at home and later tested positive for COVID-19, prompting a police investigation, CBS News reported. The man in his 40s has the surname Sun and failed to follow a requirement to isolate that he was given after visiting a shopping mall deemed to be
high risk.” Sun and his wife later tested positive, prompting authorities to lock down 5,000 of their neighbors at home and send 250 to a government quarantine center.

Here’s what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 529.4 million on Tuesday, while the death toll rose above 6.28 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world with 84 million cases and 1,004,770 fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 221.1 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 66.6% of the total population. But just 103.2 million have had a first booster, equal to 46.7% of the vaccinated population.

Just 13.5 million of the people aged 50 and over who are eligible for a second booster have had one, equal to 21.5% of those who had a first booster.

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