Shanghai tightens lockdown to hit ‘zero-COVID’ goal by late May
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Shanghai is tightening its already stringent COVID-19 lockdown to eliminate infections outside the quarantined area of China’s largest city later this month, people familiar with the matter said.
Curbs across the city’s 16 districts are likely to change as some have already hit targets, but people say that despite a recent drop in the number of cases during the country’s worst coronavirus outbreak, traffic restrictions will generally remain until the end of May due to fears of a return.
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Social media posts, along with accounts of several district residents, show that the city government of 25 million is accelerating and expanding its efforts to transfer close contacts of positive cases to central quarantine centers.
Multiple residents said they would have to go to such facilities despite having negative tests even after the frustration spread, after cases were found in their buildings.
Other residents said they were told Saturday by their housing compounds that they would not be able to leave their front door or estate or receive delivery for a week as part of an effort to reach the “zero case at community level”.
The Shanghai government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Shanghai is reporting thousands of cases every day, mostly in sealed-off areas such as central quarantine facilities, premises and accommodation under “closed loop” management where residents are prevented from leaving their front doors.
Completing community-level transmissions outside of such areas has been a lockdown turning point in cities like Shenzhen, which reopened public transport last month and allowed people to return to work.
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But Shanghai has fought to end the community’s transition in the face of the contagious Omicron variant. Authorities initially aimed to reach the target by April 20, Reuters reported last month, but only two districts have been able to do so.
On Saturday, authorities in Putuo and Changning districts issued notices that residents of housing compounds classified as the city’s least risky “prevention” areas would no longer be able to leave their compounds.
A resident of Pudong New Area District, which has a financial center in Shanghai, told Reuters he had received a similar notice from his compound.
Residents of nine housing compounds in the Juhui district, which includes the former French concession area, told Reuters they were told by a neighborhood committee on Saturday that they would be barred from leaving the front door or taking delivery for at least a week.
A statement from Reuters quoted Juhui as saying, “This is to allow the community to reach zero at the community level as soon as possible and to lift the lockdown. It says the sanctions will remain in effect until May 15.”
A neighborhood committee said in its official WeChat account that for the safety of the community it would have to remove all occupants of a building and disinfect the area after one occupant tested positive.
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A video shared thousands of times on social media shows Hazmat-appropriate police arguing with residents who were told to leave the quarantine after a positive test of a neighbor.
“This is so that we can completely remove any positive cases,” an official said. “Stop asking me why, why not. We have to comply with national guidelines and epidemic control policies.”
Reuters could not independently verify the video.
Shanghai achieved city-wide “zero-covid” just twice outside the quarantine area on April 30 and May 1. The daily case has been in double digits ever since. City officials said districts without quarantine for three days in a row were expected to achieve the target.
As of Saturday, Shanghai had reported 11 cases outside the quarantine area across five districts.
Officials have given little clarity on how to finally lift the lockdown, warning the public against complacency.
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