Shanghai’s COVID-19 outbreak labeled ‘extremely grim’ as lockdown extended

The COVID-19 outbreak in China’s biggest metropolis of Shanghai remains “extremely grim” amid an ongoing lockdown confining around 26 million people to their homes, a city official said on Tuesday.

Shanghai epidemic control task force director Gu Honghui was quoted by state media as saying the epidemic in the city was “still at a high level”.

“The situation is extremely grim,” Gu said.

China has sent more than 10,000 health workers from across the country to help the city, including 2,000 from the military, and is testing residents en masse, some of whom have been locked down for weeks.

Most of eastern Shanghai, which was due to reopen last Friday, remained closed along with the western half of the city.

Officials will re-evaluate preventive measures after analyzing test results on all residents of the city, Gu said.

“Prior to that, citizens are urged to continue to follow current lockdown measures and stay home except for medical and other emergencies,” Gu said.

Outbreak caused by the Omicron BA.2 variant

Shanghai has reported more than 73,000 positive COVID-19 infections since the resurgence of the highly contagious variant of the Omicron coronavirus in March.

Shanghai recorded another 13,354 cases on Monday – the vast majority of them asymptomatic – bringing the city’s total to more than 73,000 since the latest wave of infections began last month. No deaths have been attributed to the outbreak caused by the Omicron BA.2 variant, which is much more infectious but also less lethal than the previous Delta strain.

On Tuesday, workers take off their protective gear at the entrance to a neighborhood in Shanghai’s Jingan district. (Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)

A separate outbreak continues to rage in the northeastern province of Jilin, and the capital Beijing has also seen nine additional cases, including only one asymptomatic. Workers shut down an entire mall in the city where a case had been detected.

While China’s immunization rate hovers around 90 percent, its domestically produced inactivated virus vaccines are considered weaker than mRNA vaccines such as those produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna that are used in the country. abroad, as well as in the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau. Vaccination rates among the elderly are also much lower than those of the population as a whole, with only about half of people over 80 fully vaccinated.

Thousands under observation

Meanwhile, complaints have been filed in Shanghai about difficulties obtaining food and daily necessities, and shortages of medical staff, volunteers and beds in isolation wards where tens of thousands of people are kept under observation.

Shanghai has converted an exhibition hall and other facilities into massive isolation centers where people with mild or no symptoms are accommodated in a sea of ​​beds separated by temporary partitions.

Gu said about 47,700 beds are available for COVID-19 patients, and another 30,000 beds will be ready soon. It was unclear how many beds were available for patients under observation, who number more than 100,000, according to city health officials.

Public outrage has been fueled by reports and video clips posted on the internet documenting the death of a nurse who was denied admission to her own hospital due to COVID-19 restrictions, and infants separated from their parents.

Circulation of images showing several infants being kept in beds prompted the city’s Public Health Clinical Center to issue a statement saying the children were being well cared for and were being moved to a new facility when pictures were taken.

A rapid antigen test kit showing a negative result is seen during the lockdown in Shanghai on Tuesday. (Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)

During a virtual town hall on Monday, the US consulate in Shanghai warned of possible family separations during the lockdown, but said it had “extremely limited capacity” to intervene in such cases.

Economic impact

Concern is growing over the potential economic impact on China’s financial capital, also a major shipping and manufacturing hub. Most public transport has been suspended and non-essential businesses closed, although airports and train stations remain open and the city’s port and some major industries such as car factories continue to operate.

International events in the city have been canceled and three out of five foreign companies with operations in Shanghai say they have cut their sales forecasts for this year, according to a survey conducted last week by the American Chamber of Commerce. A third of the 120 companies that responded to the survey said they had delayed their investments.

Despite these concerns and growing public frustration, China says it is sticking to its uncompromising “zero tolerance” approach of imposing lockdowns, mass testing and mandatory isolation of all suspected cases and contacts. narrow.