SHANGHAI, April 5 (Reuters) – Chinese authorities on Tuesday expanded Shanghai’s lockdown to cover all of the financial hub’s 26 million residents, after city-wide testing caused new COVID-19 cases to spike. to more than 13,000, in a context of growing public outrage over the quarantine rules.
The lockdown now covers the entire city, after restrictions in the western districts of the city were extended until further notice. The process has become a major litmus test for China’s zero-tolerance strategy to eliminate the novel coronavirus.
At least 38,000 people have been deployed to Shanghai from other regions in the largest nationwide medical operation since Wuhan was locked down in early 2020 following the first known coronavirus outbreak, according to state media.
The city’s quarantine strategy has been criticized for separating children from their parents and putting asymptomatic cases among those with symptoms. Some public health experts say it is no longer an effective strategy.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea, since after 24 months of the pandemic we know much more,” said Jaya Dantas, a professor of international health at Curtin University in Australia, adding that China’s strategies to combat COVID -19, which require a lot of resources, should be reviewed.
Some citizens shared videos on social networks expressing their concern about the confinement.
Sun Chunlan, Chinese Vice Premier in charge of COVID prevention, urged the Party’s grassroots organizations to “do their best” to help residents solve their problems, such as ensuring access to medicine, food and water.
Thousands of Shanghai residents have been locked up in rudimentary “central quarantine” facilities after testing positive, whether or not they are symptomatic.
Jane Polubotko, a Ukrainian marketing manager who is now being held in the city’s biggest quarantine center, told Reuters it was unclear when they might be released.
“No one knows how many tests we need to get out,” he said.
In an interview with the Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily on Saturday, Chen Erzhen, a doctor in charge of a Shanghai quarantine center, said it was possible China would review the guidelines and allow asymptomatic patients to stay in home, especially if the number of cases continued to rise.
“The most important thing is the problem of individual compliance with the rules,” he said.
INCREASE IN CASES
Shanghai imposed tough restrictions last week as authorities scrambled to contain the city’s biggest COVID-19 outbreak to date, after initially adopting a more piecemeal approach.
“Currently, the epidemic prevention and control in Shanghai is in the most difficult and critical phase,” Wu Qianyu, a senior official with the municipal health commission, said at a briefing on Tuesday. “We must adhere to the general policy of proactive elimination without hesitation, without hesitation.”
Shanghai reported a record 13,086 new asymptomatic coronavirus cases on April 4, officials said on its WeChat channel, up from 8,581 a day earlier, after a citywide testing program sampled more 25 million people in 24 hours.
The government said it had collected 25.7 million samples in 2.4 million test tubes on Monday, with nearly 80% of the total tested by Tuesday morning. Positive results are subject to individual follow-up.
The proportion of asymptomatic cases is much higher in Shanghai than in the rest of the world, which has been attributed to a screening process that catches infected people before they get sick. However, experts said this did not explain why symptomatic cases fell to 268 on Monday, down from 425 the day before.
Analysts outside China warn of the economic costs of the campaign to curb contagion.
“What is most striking in Shanghai is the difficulty authorities are having managing logistics, particularly the conditions of the centralized quarantine facilities,” said Michael Hirson, a China analyst at consultancy Eurasia Group.
“Given that Shanghai has a very capable government, the current problems are a warning to local governments across China, where capacity is not that high and major outbreaks could stretch resources to the limit.”