New Covid-19 cases in Shanghai’s low-risk unguarded zones fell to the lowest level since a phased lockdown was imposed one month ago, in a fresh sign that the mainland’s financial capital could soon ease restrictions and ramp up business activity. Officials counted 108 infections in the residential compounds classified as low-risk and their surrounding areas over the last 24 hours, according to data released on Friday. “The smaller number is bolstering officials and residents’ confidence in containing the pandemic,” said Meng Tianying, a senior executive at Shanghai-based consultancy Domo Medical. “Shanghai is set to strengthen virus control in the coming few days to achieve societal zero-Covid goal.” New cases reported on Friday numbered 15,032, 41 per cent more than a day earlier . Among 5,487 symptomatic patients, 5,062 were Covid-19 carriers who were classified as asymptomatic cases in the previous days. Therefore the actual number of newly added infections stood at 9,770, an 8 per cent drop from the 10,622 reported on Thursday. Cumulative cases since the outbreak began on March 1 hit 554,000. The city added 52 new deaths on Thursday, taking the total to 337. Shanghai has been chasing the so-called societal zero-Covid goal since mid-April, aiming to bring new cases in the lowest-risk “precautionary zones” and their neighbouring areas to zero before shifting its focus to preventing the disease from spilling beyond the highest risk areas and hospitals into the wider community. Precautionary zones refers to residential compounds where no infections have been spotted in the previous 14 days. The municipal government issued a standstill order on April 16, under which movements of medical staff, health officials, delivery couriers and community volunteers in unguarded zones are curbed. It was supposed to end on April 20 but on April 21, the city government extended the order to April 26 . Eastern Chinese city ramps up zero Covid with tests every 48 hours No official announcement has been made on the standstill status, but local officials said the policy would be maintained until the number of new infections in the unguarded zones reaches zero. “Since the societal zero-Covid is in sight, city officials will probably take a bold step in easing lockdown measures, letting more large-scale manufacturers to resume production,” said Ding Haifeng, a consultant at Shanghai-based financial advisory firm Integrity. “Virus prevention and control measures will be lifted in a step-by-step approach.” Shanghai cordoned off Pudong – east of the Huangpu River – in a planned two-phase lockdown on March 28, before it shut the whole city down on April 1 as the highly transmissible Omicron variant spread quickly in communities. Last week, the local government allowed 666 key manufacturers to resume production in “closed loops”, with workers sleeping at or near the sites to avoid contact with outsiders. The municipality has yet to unveil a plan to lift the lockdown, but it would allow more people living in the precautionary zones to return to production sites to work under the closed-loop system in the coming weeks. Zhao Dandan, deputy director of the Shanghai health commission, told a media briefing on Friday that the precautionary zones now encompass 12.38 million residents, more than half the city’s population of 25 million, compared to 7.85 million a week ago. In Beijing officials discovered 49 new cases on Thursday as they stepped up mass testing exercises to screen for infections and cut transmission chains. The local health commission told a press briefing on Friday evening that it had spotted another 14 infections, taking the total cases to 228 since the Omicron variant surfaced in the capital on April 22. The nationwide total of Covid-19 cases stood at 15,675 on Friday, up 39 per cent from a day earlier.