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The gruelling restrictions in China's financial capital Shanghai may come to an end soon as officials have said that they are looking to stop the community spread of the virus by 20 May. 

Shanghai vice mayor We Qing recently said that the goal is to achieve “elimination in society", meaning any new cases of Covid would only be in people already in isolation.

She said it would allow for an “orderly opening, limited (population) flow, and differentiated management".

Although no exact date beyond the middle of the month was given, Wu said that the city intends to gradually restore industrial production, education and medical services.

Similar past assurances have been made by Shanghai officials earlier as well, only for the restrictions to return even as cases wane in the city of 25 million people.

The strict lockdown – now in its seventh week – has been a cause of much frustration among the residents. Complaints about food shortages and other hardships and videos posted online show people in Shanghai and other areas arguing with police.

The restrictions are a part of the government's zero-Covid policy, which has garnered criticism from several quarters, including the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

WHO director-general Tedros on Tuesday called China's policy unsustainable in view of the constantly changing behaviour of the coronavirus and called on Beijing to shift its strategy.

“As we all know the virus is evolving, changing its behaviour and becoming more transmissible. With that changing behaviour, changing your measures will be very important," Tedros said.

“When we talk about zero Covid strategy, we don't think it is sustainable considering the behaviour of the virus now what we anticipate in the future, especially when we have now the good knowledge and understanding of the virus," he told a media briefing in Geneva.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian dismissed the statements and called on WHO to stop making "irresponsible" remarks. 

“We hope the relevant individual will make objective and reasonable views of China’s epidemic protocol and policy and try to get a better understanding of the facts and refrain from making irresponsible remarks," said Lijan. 

Several other experts have also questioned the policy's continued use given vaccines are widely available, and it has affected growth in the world's second-largest economy as well as global supply chains.

Shanghai reported 2,096 new Covid-19 cases on Friday, all but 227 of them in people not showing symptoms. Beijing reported 50 cases, in line with recent daily totals.

With inputs from agencies. 

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