Shanghai has reported no new cases of COVID-19 outside quarantined areas in two districts, raising hopes the tide is turning in its battle against the virus.
Some factories around the city have begun a gradual return to work.
In an event highly-publicised on state media, electric car company Tesla resumed production at its Shanghai plant on Tuesday, after a stoppage of more than three weeks.
The US carmaker was on a list of 666 firms announced by the Chinese government last week 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 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,” she said.
“Community spread has been effectively curbed.”
While 16.3 million people are still not allowed to leave their apartments or housing compounds, 7.85 million can return to factories or walk outside – an increase of two million from last week, she said.
But some have said they still need permission from neighbourhood officials to go out and have been unable to obtain it.
Authorities have this week ramped up daily testing of residents, as well as transfers of positive cases and their close contacts to quarantine centres outside Shanghai.
Social media users have shared stories of busloads of residents taken from home and sent into quarantine, including babies and the elderly.
Shanghai reported 16,407 new local asymptomatic coronavirus cases for April 19, down from 17,332 on Monday. Symptomatic cases fell to 2494 from 3084.
City authorities said seven people infected with COVID-19 died on Tuesday. Shanghai has reported 17 deaths since the latest outbreak began, all in the past three days.
Numerous residents have said 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 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.
Two of the city’s 16 districts, Jinshan and Chongming, reported no new cases outside quarantined areas, while the case numbers reported in seven other districts were in single digits.
Other cities that have been under lockdown began easing curbs once they halted transmission outside quarantined areas.
A key priority once life outside resumes in Shanghai is to boost lagging vaccination rates among the elderly, health officials said.
Only 62 per cent of residents over the age of 60 had been fully vaccinated, with 38 per cent having received a booster.
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.
In Kunshan, a city neighbouring Shanghai where many suppliers to the likes of Apple are located, Taiwanese firms making chip and electronic components reported a mixed picture on work resumption, with some warning deliveries would be postponed until next month.