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Shanghai cranks up lockdown restrictions, residents can go out only to get Covid test

A pair of rubber gloves is hung to dry, as a security guard in personal protective equipment (PPE) walks along a street, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Shanghai, China March 29, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song (REUTERS)Premium
A pair of rubber gloves is hung to dry, as a security guard in personal protective equipment (PPE) walks along a street, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Shanghai, China March 29, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song (REUTERS)

Shanghai's number of new daily cases exceeded 4,400 on Tuesday, following which the authorities cranked up the Covid curbs in China's most populous city

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SHANGHAI : Shanghai's number of new daily cases exceeded 4,400 on Tuesday, following which the authorities cranked up the Covid curbs in China's most populous city. Residents can now only go out to get Covid-19 tested. 

Battling their biggest ever outbreak fueled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, authorities said that all residents the District, home to many elite financial institutions and the Shanghai Stock Exchange, will be confined to their homes and allowed out only to get a Covid test, according to a statement.

Covid-19 Lockdown in Shanghai

Residents shouldn’t walk in the hallways, garages or open areas of their residential compounds in order to reduce the risk of infection, Wu Qianyu, an official with the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission, said during a briefing on Tuesday. That includes walking pets.

Shanghai’s lockdown came after a month of less disruptive measures failed to stymie omicron’s fast and stealthy spread in the community.

Residents east of the Huangpu were locked down in their housing compounds on Monday but were mostly allowed to roam within them. On Tuesday, however, three residents told Reuters neighbourhood committees had told them they were no longer allowed to step outside their homes.

"Children were still having picnics yesterday and having fun," said one of them, who declined to be identified, citing privacy concerns.

The stricter lockdown rules came a day after the Chinese financial hub started sealing off its 25 million people in two stages, with half the city locked down for four days, followed by the other half. The goal is to test the entire city for Covid-19, part of the effort to get its biggest outbreak to date under control.

Zero Covid strategy

This is the second day of Covid lockdown in the financial hub of China. Home to 26 million people, the authorities in this district are dividing the city roughly along the Huangpu River, splitting the historic centre from the eastern financial and industrial district of Pudong to allow for staggered testing.

China has imported some 21,000 boxes of Pfizer Inc.’s Covid pill Paxlovid through Shanghai earlier this month, and has been treating high-risk patients with the drug.

The city also has rolled out a slew of measures, including tax relief, rent extension or reductions, and loan support for small businesses, retail and catering industries hit hard by the outbreak, officials said.

8.26 million tests were performed by as many as 17,000 testing personnel in the city's locked-down districts on Monday.

"The vast numbers of medical staff, grass-roots cadres, community workers and volunteers shared the very hard work on the front line of epidemic prevention and control, and should be thanked," Wu Qianyu said.

Though China is sticking to its plan for crushing the outbreak, experts overseas remain sceptical about the efficacy of lockdowns in the face of a highly infectious new variant.

"It is clear from Australia and elsewhere in the world that lockdowns are simply not effective against Omicron – so expect a big wave coming," said Adrian Esterman, an expert in biostatistics at the University of South Australia.

Daily cases recorded in Shanghai

Covid cases jumped to 4,477 on the first day of the lockdown, from 3,500 reported on Monday. There were 6,886 cases nationwide on Tuesday, according to data from China’s National Health Commission.

Public reactions to sweeping lockdown

Drone footage published by state media showed empty streets below the skyscrapers of the city's Lujiazui financial district. Public transport in the east has been shut and all unapproved vehicles ordered off the streets.

The Shanghai Stock Exchange, in the west of the city, said it has kept a skeleton staff in place in the bourse for key operations while others work from home.

General Motors's joint venture has managed to maintain production by asking workers to sleep on factory floors, people familiar with the matter said.

Residents in the west of the city have been stocking up at shops and markets in anticipation of their lockdown from 1 April.

But U.S. hypermarket chain Costco Wholesale Corp, whose Shanghai store has in recent days attracted throngs of shoppers, said it was closing from Tuesday, along with some gyms and shopping malls also in western districts.

The city government rolled out new measures to try to support Covid-affected businesses, including rent exemptions and tax rebates.

The Communist Party tabloid the Global Times quoted Peking University economist Cao Heping as saying that while the city's growth would be hit, the national economy would not suffer greatly.

Elsewhere, the city of Changchun, capital of Jilin province in the northeast, apologised to its 8.5 million residents for food shortages related to disruption caused by containment measures.

The manufacturing hub of Shenzhen is starting to get back on its feet after shutdowns but many firms are worried about the near-term outlook, the Securities Times reported.

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