In a desperate bid to control a wider outbreak after discovering some community transmission cases and a cluster, Shanghai authorities have imposed lockdown for millions of people in five districts.
The cluster was traced back to a well-known beauty parlour, the Red Rose, less than 10 days after a strict city-wide lockdown was lifted on 1 June. Three workers of the parlour tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday.
Mass-testing drives have been made mandatory for all residents of 14 of Shanghai’s 16 districts over the weekend, with stay-at-home orders for residents in these areas.
Green fences and red wooden boards have sprung up in the residential areas in the central district of Xuhui to barricade the residents in, triggering a fresh wave of public anger.
The latest orders have triggered a rush to grocery stores and online platforms as people tried to stock food and essentials fearing another lockdown.
Witnessing China’s worst outbreak of the pandemic yet, Shanghai – a city of 26 million – was hit with a gruelling and strict city-wide lockdown for a month, fuelling widespread frustration and even rare protests among residents amid complaints about shortage of food, groceries and medicines – which was supplied by local authorities.
Beijing has imposed localised lockdowns, shutting down public places, and transportation with work-from-home orders in place.
These restrictions had begun easing as coronavirus cases declined. Authorities praised themselves for containing community outbreaks of the Omicron variant even though China’s infection rate is low by global standards.
But on Thursday, Beijing shut down venues in two of the capital’s largest districts after tracing cases to a few bars.
These new regulations came as president Xi Jinping doubled down on the much-debated zero-Covid policy – to bring community case numbers back to zero – while ensuring economic development.
“Persistence is victory,” the Chinese president said in a speech in southwest China’s Sichuan province on Friday.
“We must unswervingly adhere to the general policy of ‘dynamic clearing’, strengthen confidence, eliminate interference, overcome paralysing thoughts, pay close attention to the key tasks of epidemic prevention and control, and resolutely consolidate the hard-won results of epidemic prevention and control,” he added.
Mainland China recorded 151 new coronavirus cases on 9 June, out of which 45 were symptomatic and others were asymptomatic, the National Health Commission said on Friday.
The Chinese president’s remarks came as he prepares for a reshuffle in the Communist Party leadership this year and expects to secure an unprecedented third term as president of China amid coronavirus pandemic restrictions wreaking havoc on the economy.
China’s economy is expected to miss its growth target this year by 5.5 per cent because lockdowns led to business shutdowns and supply chains snarls.
Additional reporting by agencies