Shanghai asks entire city to self-test for Covid as frustration grows

Lockdown has disrupted daily life and businesses as officials try to stamp out virus

Shanghai

SHANGHAI on Sunday (Apr 3) ordered its 26 million residents to undergo 2 more rounds of tests for Covid-19 as public anger grows over how authorities in China's most populous city are tackling a record coronavirus surge.

Residents should self-test on Sunday using antigen kits and report any positive results, Shanghai government officials told a news conference, while a nucleic acid test would be conducted citywide on Monday.

"The main task is to completely eliminate risk points and to cut off the chain of transmission so that we can curb the spread of the epidemic as soon as possible," said Wu Qianyu, an inspector from Shanghai Municipal Health Commission.

Essentially, all of China's financial capital is locked down after the city began curbing movement in its eastern districts last Monday, extending the restrictions to the entire city days later. Shanghai's lockdown has massively disrupted daily life and businesses, even as healthcare workers and volunteers work round the clock trying to test the entire population and supply residents with groceries.

China's Covid caseload remains low by international standards, but spikes in places like Shanghai are testing its previously successful approach of stamping out the virus through strict curbs and aggressive testing and tracing.

Most of Shanghai's infections have been asymptomatic, according to official data, but China's "dynamic clearance" approach requires authorities to test, trace and centrally quarantine all positive cases.

Shanghai on Sunday reported 7,788 daily locally transmitted asymptomatic cases, up from 6,501 the day before, while symptomatic cases rose to 438 from 260.

The city accounted for the bulk of mainland China's 11,781 daily locally transmitted asymptomatic cases and nearly one-third of its 1,506 symptomatic cases. This was the highest national case count since the early days of the pandemic in February 2020.

China is also battling a large outbreak in the north-eastern province of Jilin.

Further, state media reported a case infected with a new subtype of the Omicron variant. The new iteration of the virus, isolated from a mild Covid-19 patient in a city less than 70km from Shanghai, evolves from the BA.1.1 branch of the omicron variant, Global Times reported, citing sequencing data from local health authorities. The report said the subtype doesn't match other coronavirus causing Covid in China nor those submitted to GISAID, where scientists around the world share the coronavirus they sequence as a way to monitor mutations.

A case in Dalian city in northern China reported on Friday also didn't match any coronavirus found domestically, the municipal government said on its WeChat account.

Stories of how Shanghai separates Covid-positive children from their parents have gone viral in the country and triggered widespread public anger.

In a rare instance of grassroots lobbying, several residents reposted a statement on the WeChat and Weibo social media platforms saying they wanted asymptomatic or mild cases to be allowed to isolate at home, after reports of unsanitary and crowded conditions at quarantine facilities.

Supply chains and businesses are also being tested.

River congestion for containers and oil tankers off Shanghai has been easing since last Thursday, but the number of bulkers queuing in outer Yangtze estuary anchorage jumped to nearly 90, the most since early October, Refinitiv data showed.

Nearby ports, such as Ningbo in Zhejiang province, are experiencing an acute surge in waiting vessels, as companies divert cargos to avoid prolonged logistics turnarounds. REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

KEYWORDS IN THIS ARTICLE

BT is now on Telegram!

For daily updates on weekdays and specially selected content for the weekend. Subscribe to t.me/BizTimes