Shanghai reported the first fatalities from the city’s current wave of Covid-19, just as local authorities embarked on a plan to gradually restore production and business activity in China’s commercial centre after more than two weeks of lockdown. New cases in Shanghai fell 10.4 per cent to 22,248, according to data released on Monday, while those showing symptoms declined by 25 per cent to 2,417 cases. The three deaths were among 16 “severe cases” of Covid-19 infections, all of them unvaccinated elderly residents with underlying ailments. Declining daily cases for the second time in six successive days undergird the government’s push to restore transport links between provinces to ease the pressure on supply chains in the world’s second-largest economy. At a weekly meeting of the State Council, Vice-Premier Liu He instructed that a nationally recognised Covid-19 test pass be issued to enable truck drivers to deliver raw materials, components, food and essential supplies between provinces without having to wait for results at every stop. “The cabinet’s promise to grant more passes to truck drivers will technically facilitate the resumption of manufacturing operations, as raw materials could be secured through a restored supply chain,” said the independent Shanghai analyst Gao Shen, speaking after China released data showing that the first-quarter economy expanded by 4.8 per cent. China’s nationwide Covid-19 infections retraced by a 10 per cent to 23,362 cases, according to data released on Monday, most of them in Shanghai. Guangdong province in southern China added 35 cases, 25 of which showed symptoms. Jilin province in northeast China added 542 infections. The three elderly residents who died in Shanghai all suffered from a variety of medical ailments such as acute coronary syndrome, diabetes and cerebral infarction, which made them ineligible for vaccination, health authorities said. The remaining “severe cases” all suffer from ailments and were unvaccinated. Chinese Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan, who had been overseeing Shanghai’s anti-pandemic work since April 2, instructed local authorities to build more makeshift hospitals and conduct even more mass testing to snuff out the Covid-19 disease in the government’s pursuit of its dynamic zero-Covid goal. All 16 districts across the city have adopted a strategy of “static management of the whole region” – curbing movements by even medical professionals, food delivery staff and volunteers – on Saturday to stop the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Wu Qianyu, a senior official with the local health commission, told a media briefing on Monday morning that people living in the “lockdown zones” – residential compounds where at least a single infection was detected in the previous seven days – would be required to undergo a nucleic test every day from April 15 to 21. A clean-up campaign started on the weekend to sterilise and wipe down a wide range of objects that come into contact with residents, such as escalator handrails, point-of-sales machines, and elevator buttons. Shanghai, the new epicentre for China’s latest coronavirus outbreak, has conducted more than 200 million nucleic acid tests since March 10, and at least eight rounds of rapid antigen tests have been used to spot infections since April 3. ‘Just in time’ morphs into ‘just in case’ as Covid-19 cuts supply chains Daily infections in Shanghai have topped 20,000 cases every day since April 7, defying the citywide lockdown. Transmission within households was currently the main cause of the sporadic spread of the Omicron variant, Wu Huanyu, a deputy director of the Shanghai Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said last week, adding that contaminated food deliveries had exacerbated the “intra-family” infections . Shanghai’s government kept the entire city locked down on April 1, reversing its earlier plan of a phased quarantine, as the highly transmissible Omicron variant took hold, upending the city’s previous success at keeping the disease at bay. The Shanghai Commission of Economy and Information Technology said on Saturday evening that key manufacturers in the city would be allowed to resume part of production in the so-called “closed loop” – workers essentially living at the sites to avoid contacts with outsiders – subject to approval by health authorities. Industry officials said the path to resume production would be bumpy, because supply chain constraints and lack of manpower continued to stop factories from operating normally. Lorries without special passes granted by the national transport authorities are barred from plying between Shanghai and the surrounding provinces, stranding tens of thousands of manufacturers in the Yangtze River Delta, China’s most important manufacturing area. Nio , with a factory in the Anhui provincial capital of Hefei, was forced to suspend production of its electric cars for five days last week because its supply chain was affected by shutdowns in Shanghai, Jiangsu and Jilin provinces. The founder of Xpeng last week warned that the entire carmaking industry of China could grind to a standstill by May if the supply chain bottlenecks persist. ‘China’s Motown’ is paralysed as Shanghai’s lockdown idles plants Manufacturers from Tesla and Volkswagen to hi-tech plastics maker Covestro have been lobbying the central government since early April to allow more truck drivers to work during the outbreak, as a way of maintaining transport and logistics links. “A resurgence of the outbreak amid the process [of restarting production] is a big concern, which may force government officials to reimpose strict virus control measures,” Gao said.