File photo of school students in China. (Photo: AFP)

Shanghai to gradually reopen schools in June as lockdown eases

Schoolchildren in Shanghai will gradually resume some in-person classes in June with daily COVID-19 tests, the local government said Thursday (May 26), as the Chinese metropolis gradually emerges from a lengthy lockdown that brought it to a standstill.

The country has been fighting its worst coronavirus outbreak since the start of the pandemic, with the epicentre Shanghai banning its 25 million residents from leaving their homes for weeks.

Some of the city's restrictions have recently eased as cases dwindle, though much of the population is still not allowed to venture outside for more than a few hours a day at most.

Children attending the last two years of high school - who must prepare for the all-important college entrance examinations - will return to schools across the city on Jun 6, Shanghai education official Yang Zhenfeng said at a press conference on Thursday.

They will be joined a week later by students in the final grade of middle school, while all other students are to remain at home attending online classes, Yang said.

"We will ensure that students get swabbed on campus after school every day", with results from their PCR tests available by the next morning, Yang said.

Shanghai's lockdown has taken a heavy toll on business and morale in the economic and cultural hub, pushing city authorities to allow some factories and public transport lines to resume operation in a patchy reopening.

China is hewing to a zero-COVID policy with mass lockdowns, routine tests and movement restrictions whenever infection clusters emerge - the last major economy to do so in a world now living with the coronavirus.

Beijing's strict approach has been severely challenged by the rise of the Omicron variant, which has caused hundreds of thousands of infections in China this year.

Authorities have turned their attention to the low vaccination rate among China's elderly population, long a weak point in the country's defence against the virus.

Officials have ramped up incentives for older people to get jabbed, including one neighbourhood near Beijing's Temple of Heaven which is dangling as much as 1000 yuan (US$149) in gift cards for residents over 80 who get their first shot.

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