SHANGHAI/BEIJING, May 12 (Reuters) – Authorities in Shanghai combed through the city on Thursday for its latest COVID-19 cases in hopes of paving the way for an exit from a painful six-week lockdown , while Beijing has limited taxi services to keep a lid on its smaller outbreak.
China’s mall of 25 million people has tightened its lockdown in recent days in a last-ditch effort to eradicate the virus by the end of the month, after making significant progress, data this week showed.
Shanghai’s mass testing detected just two new cases outside of the tightest restricted areas on May 11, officials said Thursday, but that was two more than none the day before.
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Significantly, the cases were found in two of the city’s 16 districts, Xuhui and Fengxian, which authorities said this week were among eight that had achieved “zero COVID” status, having had no cases. community for three consecutive days.
The latest cases show the difficulty in completing the highly transmissible variant of Omicron despite ruthlessly enforcing some of China’s toughest restrictions since the virus emerged in the city of Wuhan in late 2019.
The new infections are also raising concerns about how long it will take to return to normal life under China’s hardline “zero COVID” policy after the lockdown is lifted for good.
Yu Linwei, vice governor of Xuhui, told a press conference that his district would not let up on anti-epidemic efforts, ensuring everyone is tested and new cases and their close contacts are isolated. in quarantine as soon as possible.
“We dare not slack off,” he said.
Some of the residents of the district, who in recent days had been allowed to leave their compound for walks and shopping, say they have received notices telling them they cannot leave their homes and prepare for further testing.
Overall, Shanghai reported 1,305 new local asymptomatic coronavirus cases for May 11, up from 1,259 a day earlier and 144 symptomatic cases, up from 228. But these were in areas already under stricter controls. more strict.
Cases found in relatively freer communities are those most closely watched for clues to the direction of Shanghai’s outbreak. Other Chinese cities subject to similar lockdowns began easing restrictions after a period of zero cases in those areas.
The number of cases in China is a tiny fraction of what the world’s major cities have come to ignore, as most countries lift restrictions to “live with the virus” even as infections continue to spread.
China is bucking the global trend and doubling down on its “zero COVID” policy, putting hundreds of millions of people in dozens of cities under traffic curbs, causing significant economic damage and disrupting the international trade and supply chains.
But China says it is saving lives.
It points to one million COVID deaths in the United States, and many more millions elsewhere, while its official toll since the start of the pandemic is just over 5,000.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this week that China’s policy was “not sustainable”, prompting an angry rebuke from Beijing and censure of his “irresponsible” comments. Read more
The capital, Beijing, reported 46 new COVID cases for May 11, up from 37 previously.
Late Wednesday, Beijing announced the suspension of taxis and transportation services in parts of Chaoyang District, Beijing’s largest and the epicenter of its outbreak, and two other districts.
Authorities there have banned dine-in services at restaurants, closed some shopping malls, entertainment and tourist venues, suspended sections of its bus and subway systems and imposed closures on some residential buildings.
Having tightened restrictions earlier in its outbreak, Beijing is faring much better than Shanghai at this point in its latest outbreak.
At an apartment building in Shanghai’s central Jing’an district, residents have again been told they cannot leave their apartments after being allowed out last week to walk around the compound.
“As restrictive as it is, those 10 minutes of freedom, being able to get some fresh air outside my apartment building and walking my dog, kept me sane,” said resident Stephanie Sam, 27. of the building, on the social media site WeChat.
The tightening of the curbs “removed the last hope I had about the near end of this dystopian nightmare,” she said.
The district has not reported any community cases and, like other areas of the city, has entered what authorities call “silent management mode.”
This usually means signs or fencing around buildings, banned deliveries and residents being confined to their homes again.
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Reporting by Brenda Goh and Wang Yifan in Shanghai, Martin Quin Pollard and Ryan Woo in Beijing, and bureaus in Beijing and Shanghai; Written by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Robert Birsel
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