China announces citywide Shanghai lockdown in 2 stages as COVID-19 cases rise

China’s financial hub of Shanghai announced on Sunday it would shut down the city in two stages to conduct COVID-19 testing over a nine-day period, after reporting a new daily record for asymptomatic infections.

Authorities said they would split Shanghai in two for the drill, using the Huangpu River that runs through the city as a guide. Districts east of the river, and some to the west, will be locked down and tested between March 28 and April 1. The remaining areas will be locked down and tested between April 1 and April 5.

Public transport, including ride-sharing services, in these areas will be suspended when locked down, the city government said on its official WeChat account, adding that unapproved vehicles will not be allowed on the roads.

He also said all businesses and factories would suspend manufacturing or work remotely during the lockdown, except those involved in delivering public services or providing food.

On Sunday, people line up near a COVID-19 testing site outside a hospital in Shanghai. (Aly Song/Reuters)

“The public is urged to support, understand and cooperate with the city’s epidemic prevention and control work, and participate in nucleic acid testing in an orderly manner,” the government said in a statement.

Highest number of cases since the initial outbreak

Shanghai has battled a new surge of COVID-19 for nearly a month and on Saturday reported its highest daily case count since the initial outbreak in China receded. The city recorded 2,631 new asymptomatic cases, accounting for nearly 60 percent of the total number of new asymptomatic cases in China that day, plus 47 new cases with symptoms.

While the number of cases in Shanghai remains modest by global standards, the city of 26 million has become a testing ground for China’s ‘zero-COVID’ strategy as it tries to bring the coronavirus under control. highly infectious variant of Omicron.

A man gets tested for COVID-19 at a makeshift testing site behind barriers in an area of ​​Shanghai under lockdown on Saturday. (Aly Song/Reuters)

Authorities in Shanghai have previously resisted a broad lockdown of the city to avoid destabilizing its economy and opted for a more bespoke “cut-and-grid” approach, which involves filtering out neighborhoods one by one.

The city is home to factories owned by Tesla, Volkswagen and the country’s largest chipmaker, SMIC, as well as the mainland headquarters of many international companies.

COVID strategy encounters resistance

More than 14 million Shanghai residents have taken antigen tests, the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission said on Sunday.

But some residents have complained about the seemingly endless testing cycles and piecemeal approach to ending chains of transmission, with some saying the cost of zero-COVID has become too high.

Frustrations were also felt elsewhere in China.

A man looks at his phone while leaning on a barrier in an area of ​​Shanghai under lockdown on Sunday. (Aly Song/Reuters)

Earlier this month, in footage shared on social media, a crowd of people in the northeast city of Shenyang knocked against the windows of a clothing market as they screamed in frustration at a new round of COVID-19 tests.

China reported a total of 4,448 new asymptomatic infections on March 26, up from 4,430 a day earlier, including 1,007 new cases in the northeastern province of Jilin, which is currently under lockdown.

The country reported 1,254 new confirmed cases with symptoms, up from 1,335 a day earlier. Of the new cases, 1,217 were locally transmitted, up from 1,280 a day earlier.

No deaths were reported on March 26, leaving the death toll at 4,638. As of March 26, mainland China had confirmed 143,240 cases of COVID-19.