Home / News / World /  China's largest city with 26 million people goes into strictest lockdown yet

As Covid-19 cases spike across China, the country's financial hub of Shanghai launched a two-stage lockdown of its 26 million residents on Monday to conduct mass testing.

The city had managed its smaller, past outbreaks with limited lockdowns of housing compounds and workplaces where the virus was spreading.

But the current curbs will be China's most extensive disruptions to hit the city since the central city of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected in late 2019, confined its 11 million people to their homes for 76 days in early 2020. 

The snap lockdown, announced by Shanghai's city government on Sunday, will split the city in two roughly along the Huangpu River for nine days to allow for "staggered" testing.

Shanghai's Pudong financial district and nearby areas will be locked down from Monday to Friday. In the second phase of the lockdown, the vast downtown area west of the Huangpu River that divides the city will start its own five-day lockdown Friday.

Residents will be required to stay home and deliveries will be left at checkpoints to ensure there is no contact with the outside world. Offices and all businesses not considered essential will be closed and public transport suspended.

Many communities within Shanghai have been under lockdown for the past week, with their housing compounds blocked off with blue and yellow plastic barriers and residents required to submit to multiple tests for Covid-19.

Shanghai's Disneyland theme park is among the businesses that closed earlier. Automaker Tesla is also suspending production at its Shanghai plant, according to media reports.

In-person observations of the 5 April Tomb Sweeping Festival have been cancelled and memorials will instead be held online.

Some workers, including traders at the city's stock market, were preparing to stay within a Covid-19 “bubble" for the duration of the lockdown.

Li Jiamin, 31, who works in the finance industry, said she had packed several days of clothing and supplies, and her company was sorting out sleeping and eating arrangements.

Panic-buying was reported on Sunday, with supermarket shelves cleared of food, beverages and household items. Additional barriers were being erected in neighbourhoods Monday, with workers in hazmat suits staffing checkpoints.

This comes as Wu Fan, a member of Shanghai's expert Covid team, said recent mass testing had found "large scale" infections throughout the city, triggering a stronger response.

"Containing the large scale outbreak in our city is very important because once infected people are put under control, we have blocked transmission," she told a briefing, adding that testing would be carried out until all risks were eliminated.

Shanghai said earlier this month that its daily testing capacity was around 3 million, but Chen Erzhen, a doctor in charge of a city quarantine facility, warned it still might not be enough to outpace the rapid spread of the virus.

"When case numbers reach a certain level, the difficulty of relying upon previous staff deployments increases by a large degree," he told government newspaper Liberation Daily, adding that the new lockdown should at least ensure the "stillness" required to bring the outbreak under control.

Though still low by global standards, Shanghai recorded a record 3,450 asymptomatic Covid cases on Sunday, accounting for nearly 70% of the nationwide total, along with 50 symptomatic cases.

Nationwide, there were 5,134 new asymptomatic and 1,219 symptomatic cases on Sunday, the health authority said in its regular bulletin.

China has reported more than 56,000 confirmed cases nationwide this month, with the surge in Jilin accounting for most of them.

Jilin province is enforcing travel bans and partial lockdowns in several cities, including Changchun, one of the centers of the Chinese auto industry. Although the province has seen more than 1,000 new confirmed cases per day, prevention and control measures taken there do not appear to have been as extreme as in other places.

With inputs from agencies. 

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