People and hobbyists with cameras stand along a street in the Xuhui district of Shanghai to take general pictures of the shops and pedestrians, on June 18, 2022. AFP
China is the last major economy still committed to a zero-Covid strategy, stamping out new cases with a combination of targeted lockdowns, mass testing and lengthy quarantines.
The economic hub of Shanghai was forced into a months-long lockdown during a Covid surge this spring driven by the fast-spreading Omicron variant, while the capital Beijing shuttered schools and offices for weeks over a separate outbreak.
Infections narrowed to a trickle in recent days, with Shanghai on Saturday reporting zero locally-transmitted cases for the first time since the start of the outbreak in early March.
"There were no new domestic Covid-19 confirmed cases and no new domestic asymptomatic infections in Shanghai on June 24, 2022," the city said in a statement.
The lockdown on Shanghai's 25 million residents was virtually lifted in early June, but the metropolis has struggled to return to normal as individual neighbourhoods have reimposed restrictions in response to new infections.
Millions of people in the city were temporarily locked down again two weeks ago after the government ordered a new mass testing campaign.
In Beijing, restrictions first imposed in May were eased as cases declined, but tightened again this month after a nightlife-linked infection cluster emerged.
After days of mass testing and localised lockdowns, the "Heaven Supermarket infection chain" -- named for the popular bar visited by patients -- has been effectively blocked, Beijing authorities said last week.
The city's education bureau said Saturday that all elementary and middle school students could return to their classrooms for in-person schooling on Monday after the bar cluster delayed school reopenings.
All school staff, students and parents must do a Covid PCR test before returning to school, and are urged to "limit going out and avoid gatherings," the education bureau said in an official social media post.
Beijing reported two new local infections on Saturday.
China insists the zero-Covid policy is necessary to prevent a healthcare calamity, with officials pointing to unevenly distributed medical resources and low vaccination rates among the elderly as major concerns.
But the strategy has hammered the world's second-largest economy and heavy-handed enforcement also triggered rare protests, while the extreme isolation of foreign businesses and middle-class families has tipped them into making exit plans.