Coronavirus: Shanghai’s daily Covid-19 infections halve to below 1,500 cases, raising hopes that the end may be in sight for city’s lockdown

·4-min read

New Covid-19 cases in Shanghai halved overnight, staying below five digits for the 13th straight day, as innumerable rounds of mass tests raised hopes that the current outbreak may be nearing its end, almost six weeks after sending China’s commercial hub into lockdown.

New cases fell 50.7 per cent to an 18-day low of 1,487 infections in the past 24 hours, while the number of patients showing symptoms declined by 2.6 per cent to 228, with seven deaths, according to data released on Wednesday.

“It is a good sign that the number of infections in Shanghai maintained a downward spiral,” said Zhang Chaoyue, an analyst with Northeast Securities. “The good news is that the single-day numbers showed Shanghai might have achieved the so-called societal zero-Covid goal.”

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Infections of the highly transmissible Omicron variant had been in steady decline in Shanghai since April 23, holding below 5,000 cases for the past eight days. As many as 612,500 people in the city of 25 million residents have caught the disease since March 1, most of them asymptomatic. The death toll since April 18 has risen to 560, translating to a fatality rate of 0.09 per cent of the infected.

Medical staff from Tianjin worked in Shanghai to conduct Covid-19 tests on May 9, 2022. Photo: Xinhua.
Medical staff from Tianjin worked in Shanghai to conduct Covid-19 tests on May 9, 2022. Photo: Xinhua.

Local authorities enforced a two-day “static management” order this week across the city’s so-called precautionary zones, instructing residents to remain homebound and curbing the movements of medical staff, delivery personnel and community volunteers, even if those areas had not reported a single infection in the past 14 days.

The doubling down appeared to have paid off, as authorities reported no infections in any of the areas under the standstill order on Tuesday, compared with an earlier attempt that found 25 cases.

Still, Shanghai’s government has refrained from declaring victory, as authorities hunkered down to track down and isolate every infection in one of China’s largest population centres, in pursuit of the so-called dynamic zero-Covid strategy.

The goal is not “sustainable,” considering the behaviour of the coronavirus, the World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday. A model by Chinese and US researchers suggested that, given China’s vaccine efficacy and coverage, an unchecked outbreak could “generate a tsunami of Covid-19 cases” between May and July that lead to more than 1.5 million deaths.

“We still see risks of a rebound in new cases,” Zhao Dandan, deputy director of the Shanghai health commission, said during a press briefing on Wednesday. “Shanghai remains determined to pursue the dynamic Zero-Covid policy.”

Barricades across empty roads in Shanghai on May 11, 2022. Photo: Kyodo.
Barricades across empty roads in Shanghai on May 11, 2022. Photo: Kyodo.

Shanghai, the new epicentre of mainland China’s latest coronavirus outbreak, started a phased lockdown on March 28 when it sealed off the Pudong area. Authorities reversed their plan to relax the lockdowns in Pudong and shut the whole city down on April 1 amid a flare-up in the pandemic.

The lockdown, now entering its sixth week, strained supply chains in one of the world’s most vital manufacturing hubs, forcing tens of thousands of companies from Apple’s iPhone and iPad assemblers to Tesla to suspend their production.

The Shanghai government has allowed more than 2,000 manufacturers to resume work under strict “closed-loop” conditions since late April, where workers had to be tested daily and are required to sleep on-site to ensure zero contact with outsiders. However, a survey of the first 666 companies found half of them operating at less than 30 per cent capacity, according to the Shanghai Securities News newspaper.

Health workers and volunteers stand guard at a residential compound as a resident arrive at a Covid-19 testing station in Shanghai on Monday, May 9, 2022. Photo: Bloomberg.
Health workers and volunteers stand guard at a residential compound as a resident arrive at a Covid-19 testing station in Shanghai on Monday, May 9, 2022. Photo: Bloomberg.

After eliminating the virus in the low-risk unguarded zones, Shanghai is expected to largely loosen some of the more draconian virus control and prevention measures. Quarantine staff will be barred from entering homes without permission, to assuage public outcry of the practice, Shanghai officials said on Tuesday.

Widely shared videos last weekend showed quarantine staff in hazmat suits and armed with disinfectants knocking on people’s doors in Huangpu district to carry out disinfection.

The disinfection raids were apparently not limited to Shanghai. Another video showed a family in Suining in Jiangsu province being visited by disinfection staff, who even checked the refrigerator, sprayed disinfectant on the sofa and washing on the balcony.

Health officials have confirmed that quarantine staff will not make forced entries and will seek permission before entering residents’ homes for disinfection, according to a report in ThePaper.cn.

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