Shanghai authorities will start easing lockdown in some areas on Monday, despite reporting a record of more than 25,000 new Covid cases in the country’s most populous city and one of its most significant financial centres.
The metropolis of nearly 26 million people will allow what city official Gu Honghui said was “appropriate activity” in some neighbourhoods where there have been no positive cases for at least two weeks. Residents of these neighbourhoods are not allowed to travel to those still under severe lockdowns.
“Each district will announce the specific names of the first batch [of communities],” Gu told a news briefing. It is unclear how many residents stand to have lockdowns immediately eased.
On Monday, Shanghai reported a record high combined number of cases for the previous 24 hours, with 914 symptomatic cases and 25,173 asymptomatic. For Saturday, the authorities reported 1,006 cases with symptoms and 23,937 without.
Frustration has continued to grow across Shanghai. Online, harrowing tales of residents unable to access medical resources on time have been shared multiple times. Affected residents posted pleas for help with medical facilities and complaints about difficulties in buying food. They ranged from well-connected celebrities to working-class citizens.
On Monday, Lang Hsien-ping, a well-known TV pundit, reported on Weibo that his 98-year-old mother had died while waiting for her Covid test results in hospital. According to regulations, patients have to be clear of Covid infections before being able to receive treatment during this period.
“My mother left us for ever after waiting four hours (for her Covid test results) at the door of the emergency room,” Lang wrote on Weibo. “I wanted to see her for the last time, but because my neighbourhood has been sealed off, I spent a long time communicating with relevant departments before they allowed me to go to the hospital.”
Lang said he was then unable to hail a taxi on the streets because the city was under lockdown, meaning he did not manage to bid farewell to his mother. “It was an avoidable tragedy,” he wrote.
Over the weekend, a 19-minute recording of a Shanghai couple being forced to move to a centralised quarantine facility was posted on WeChat. In it, the couple were told by the local centre for disease control (CDC) that they were Covid-positive, but they insisted they were not, as their test reports showed. The exchange ended with the CDC representative threatening to enforce the decision against the couple’s will.
As news of Shanghai residents struggling to buy food spreads across China, in recent weeks residents in other provinces have reportedly rushed to stockpile goods. Multiple “survival guides” have been shared on social media in the past few days as people in other parts of China watched the plight of Shanghai with shock.
The situation in Shanghai also prompted other Chinese cities to take a zero-risk approach to Covid. On Monday, the southern city of Guangzhou cancelled in-person classes at elementary and middle schools and shifted them online. The measures were taken after more than a dozen cases were found, and the authorities said they would last for at least a week.
On Friday, Dr Zhong Nanshan, the country’s top respiratory diseases expert, criticised the city for its under-preparedness. “The measures for prevention and control [of the Covid outbreak] in Shanghai were not sufficient, and there was insufficient understanding of the transmission characteristics of the Omicron variant,” he was quoted as saying in a university webinar.
Reuters news agency contributed to this report