Surprise Weeklong Coronavirus Lockdown Stuns Shanghai after Denials

March 28, 2022
A broad coronavirus lockdown went into effect on Monday in Shanghai, the biggest city in China, with its 26 million people subject to mandatory testing at some point in the next week.

Beijing — A broad coronavirus lockdown went into effect on Monday in Shanghai, the biggest city in China, with its 26 million people subject to mandatory testing at some point in the next week.

The surprise announcement came late on Sunday and prompted panic buying at supermarkets. The government said the measures are needed to stop the spread of Covid-19, after 50 local cases were detected, on top of 3,450 asymptomatic infections.

The lockdown will hit the city in two waves. Initially, until Friday, residents of the Pudong district and neighbouring areas like Fengxian, Jinshan, Chongming and parts of Minhang will be required to stay home and get tested.

After that, the lockdown will shift to older parts of the city west of the Huangpu River, with tests required by April 4. Anyone found to be infected will be transferred to a special facility. Authorities are preparing six hospitals, two gymnasiums and two large exhibit halls filled with beds for the expected crowds of people.

"The outbreak in Shanghai is notable by the fact that there are regional nodes and that it's spread across the whole city," said Wu Fan, a member of a government Covid-19 team. That means "energetic steps" need to be taken to reduce people's mobility and quickly find infected people to sideline under-the-radar cases.

China is pursuing an ambitious zero-Covid strategy, meaning anyone with an infection is isolated. Entire neighbourhoods or cities are locked down for testing after cases are identified.

But, as more cases of the Omicron variant pop up in China, that approach is being tested, especially after two years in which the country could operate somewhat normally, thanks to a policy of keeping its borders closed to most people from the outside.

Shanghai's lockdown came as a shock, since authorities had denied the possibility of any such course of action the day before. Courier services are being set up to deliver food as residential areas are sealed off. Public transport, ferries and taxis have been shut down in the city.

However, the city insists that airports, train stations and freight traffic will continue as "normal" in the world's biggest harbour city.

Nationwide, officials reported 1,219 people with Covid-19 and 5,134 infections without symptoms. Jilin province is also under lockdown.

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