In an event highly-publicised on state media, electric car company Tesla Inc, resumed production at its Shanghai plant on Tuesday, after a stoppage of more than three weeks.
The U.S. carmaker was on a list of 666 firms announced by the Chinese government last week, that would be given priority to reopen or keep their operations running in Shanghai.
Stringent lockdown measures enforced after the outbreak began in early March have left the city’s 25 million people struggling with the loss of income, irregular food supplies, separation of families and poor quarantine conditions.
On Wednesday, Shanghai health official Wu Qianyu gave them an encouraging situation report during a daily news conference.
“The city’s epidemic situation in recent days has shown a downward trend, the number of streets and towns reporting more than 100 daily cases has fallen consecutively for three days, community spread has been effectively curbed,” she said.
She said the trend had resulted in a significant reduction in the number of people resident in “sealed areas”, where the strictest curbs on movement are enforced.
Shanghai reported 16,407 new local asymptomatic coronavirus cases for April 19, down from 17,332 on the previous day. Symptomatic cases stood at 2,494, down from 3,084.
City authorities said seven people infected with COVID-19 died on Tuesday, the same number as on Monday. Shanghai has reported 17 deaths since the latest outbreak began, all in the past three days.
Numerous residents, however, have said that a family member had died after contracting COVID-19 since early March, but cases had not been included in official statistics, raising doubts over their accuracy.
The Shanghai government did not immediately respond to questions regarding the death toll.
Sources told Reuters that Shanghai aims to stop the spread of COVID-19 outside quarantined areas by Wednesday.
There were 390 new cases outside quarantined areas on Tuesday, down from 550 on Monday. And two of the city’s 16 districts reported no new cases outside quarantined areas.
Other cities that have been under lockdown began easing curbs once they halted transmission outside of quarantined areas.
China’s strict measures to control the pandemic, including the lockdown in Shanghai and other affected cities, have hurt the world’s second largest economy and global supply chains.
And while prioritised firms have begun to resume factory operations, analysts do not expect a straight line recovery in production.
Most workers will have to live onsite and factories must deal with disrupted supply lines and access to markets, with closures ordered by authorities in other cities and port and trucking problems snarling supply chains.
Telsa will ramp up the production in the next three to four days, a company manager told Shanghai Television on Tuesday. But a source close to the matter cautioned the assembly line remained under stress and the restart was not a return to full production.
Elsewhere, chip substrate and printed circuit board maker Unimicron Technology Corp said on Wednesday it would gradually resume operations at its plant in Kunshan, a city neighbouring Shanghai.
COVID-19 curbs in Kunshan had forced dozens of Taiwanese firms, many making components for the chip and electronics industries, to suspend operations in recent weeks. Their output is vital for many global supply chains.
Asia Electronic Material Co Ltd, which makes parts for laptops, mobile phones and digital cameras, said its plant in Kunshan would stay closed.
(Reporting by Brenda Goh, Beijing and Shanghai newsrooms; writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)