3 officials fired for COVID-19 response amid food shortages in locked Shanghai

Three local officials in Shanghai have been fired over a lax response to the COVID-19 outbreak in China’s largest city, where residents are complaining of harsh lockdown conditions leading to shortages of food and basic necessities. first necessity.

An official notice on Friday gave no details of the allegations against the three officials, but said their failure to carry out their epidemic prevention and control duties had allowed the virus to spread, resulting in “serious impact on epidemic control efforts.

Shanghai announced more than 21,000 new local cases on Friday, of which only 824 showed symptoms. The total number of cases in the outbreak that began last month in Shanghai has passed the 100,000 mark, making it one of the highest in China since the virus was first detected in the central city of Wuhan at the end of 2019.

No additional deaths have been reported in the outbreak attributed to the extremely contagious but relatively less lethal Omicron subvariant BA.2. The vaccination rate in China is around 90%, but considerably lower among the elderly.

Shanghai has placed all 26 million residents under lockdown and implemented mass testing, while requiring anyone testing positive to be held in an isolation center, some of which were newly created from gymnasiums and of converted showrooms.

Food supply issues

Home to many of China’s wealthiest, best-educated and most cosmopolitan citizens, the city was initially promised a two-phase lockdown starting March 28 and lasting no more than eight days in total. With little notice, locals raided supermarkets, quickly leaving the shelves bare.

These measures have since been extended, leaving many families who had only planned for a limited time in quarantine without supplies. Authorities say they will determine future steps based on test results, but gave no details.

Almost empty shelves are seen in a supermarket in Shanghai on March 29. (Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)

Some residents received government food parcels containing meat and vegetables. Many, however, are struggling to get rice and other staples, with online vendors sold out and delivery services unable to keep up with demand.

Without knowing when the lockdown will be lifted, anxiety is mounting, along with frustration at the city’s apparent unpreparedness for a prolonged lockdown.

Travel to and from Shanghai has largely come to a standstill and the city’s usually busy streets are deserted except for police, health workers and residents showing up for tests.

WATCH | Shanghai lockdown is testing residents’ limits:

Shanghai’s COVID-19 lockdown is testing residents’ limits

Chinese authorities are extending a mass lockdown in Shanghai – a city of 26 million people – due to a resurgence of the highly infectious variant of the Omicron coronavirus. The move has frustrated residents who complain about access to basic necessities including food and medicine. 2:01

China has repeatedly imposed lengthy mass lockdowns during the two years of the outbreak. Shanghai, however, had largely escaped the most onerous measures of China’s “zero-COVID” strategy which aims to isolate every infected person.

Officials say Shanghai, which includes the world’s busiest port and China’s main stock exchange, has enough food. But a deputy mayor, Chen Tong, acknowledged Thursday that getting the “last 100 meters” to households is a challenge.

City officials apologized for mishandling the lockdown and promised to improve food supplies. The Communist Party leadership in Beijing is working to stifle complaints, especially online, in hopes of preventing the lockdown and accompanying dissatisfaction from becoming a political issue ahead of a key party congress more late this year.

China touts ‘closed loop’ strategy

In a further endorsement of the government’s approach, Xi credited China’s ‘closed-loop’ management for keeping the infection rate down to just 0.45% of those involved in the Winter Olympics and Paralympics. of Beijing this year.

China’s anti-COVID-19 policy has “once again withstood the test, bringing useful experience to the world in fighting the virus and hosting major international events,” Xi said in a speech. Friday at a ceremony honoring the participants of the Chinese Games.

The government says it is trying to reduce the impact of its tactics, but authorities are still imposing restrictions that also block access to the industrial cities of Shenyang, Changchun and Jilin with millions of residents in the northeast.

Meanwhile, penalties for officials deemed insufficiently stringent appear to be spurring local governments to take extreme measures. Dozens of local officials across the country have been sacked or otherwise punished, although no one at the central government level has been held accountable.

Friday’s notice identified those dismissed as Cai Yongqiang, Xu Jianjun and Huang Wei, all county, ward or township officials.