Coronavirus: Shanghai’s Covid-19 cases resume setting daily records after a one-day pause, extending horizon of citywide lockdown

  • Shanghai’s symptomatic cases surged again after ebbing for two days, rising to 1,189 cases, according to a report on Wednesday, from 914 a day earlier
  • The latest caseload of 26,330 infections set a daily record for the 11th time in 12 days

Shanghai reported 26,330 confirmed Covid-19 infections on Wednesday, setting a daily record for the 11th time in 12 days, underscoring how the disease has defied more than a week of lockdowns and quarantines to be deeply entrenched in the population of 25 million people.

Symptomatic cases surged again after ebbing for two days, rising to 1,189 cases from 914 a day earlier, according to data released by the local health commission. The vast majority of infections remained asymptomatic, and no fatality has yet been linked directly to Covid-19 since March 1.

Wednesday’s data, which topped the previous record set on Monday at 26,087, have exacerbated concerns about extending the horizons of Shanghai’s lockdown, in place across all 16 districts in one of China’s largest population centres. Local authorities confined virtually every resident – except emergency and health workers – in China’s commercial hub either to their homes or workplaces since April 5.

“New cases have not peaked yet, and it will still be some time before a dynamic zero-Covid goal can be achieved,” said Meng Tianying, a senior executive at Shanghai-based consultancy Domo Medical. “The central government and local authorities will have to re-examine the strategy used to contain the outbreak, after more than a week of citywide lockdown and mass testing exercises.”

Wednesday’s reported caseload raised Shanghai’s tally since March 1 to 253,000, among which 9,500 showed symptoms. The city has conducted seven rounds of mass testing since April 3.

China’s nationwide cases rose to 27,920, according to Wednesday’s data, including the tally in Shanghai and 31 in southern China’s Guangdong province. Jilin in northeastern China is the second epicentre of the current Covid-19 wave, with 1,085 cases.

Shanghai authorities ordered a citywide lockdown on April 5, reversing an earlier plan for a two-phase quarantine for both sides of the Huangpu River – Pudong and Puxi – which was supposed to end that day.

The lockdown confined all residents to their homes. Banks, factories, the local stock exchange, the airports and seaports that have kept operating to keep the very heart of China’s economy beating are functioning in “closed loops”, where workers are required to sleep on-site to ensure zero contact with outsiders.

Since most workplaces are unable to accommodate every employee, factories and transport hubs have had to operate at reduced capacity. The effects are spilling over to the surrounding provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui, crippling one of the world’s most vital supply chains. Nio, with a factory in the Anhui provincial capital of Hefei, said last week it’s halting its assembly of electric cars, as its supply of components had been disrupted in Jiangsu, Shanghai and Jilin province in northeastern China.

To quarantine infected patients, authorities have built makeshift hospitals, converting two convention centres in Pudong into quarantine facilities with 20,000 beds to augment the city’s health infrastructure.

An office tower in Puxi owned by Shanghai’s largest developer Shanghai Greenland Group was turned into a temporary hospital with 3,650 beds on Wednesday. Gymnasiums, parks and stadiums have also been converted into so-called fangcang quarantine centres to accommodate carriers with mild symptoms.

Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan has been in Shanghai since April 2 to oversee the anti-pandemic work, pushing the city to implement mass tests to spot new infections and quarantine them swiftly.

On Monday, the State Council distributed a circular to local authorities, ordering them to keep airports, ports and highways open as they stepped up antivirus prevention measures to guard against the Omicron variant reaching their borders.

The cabinet said the supply of food and daily essentials to virus-hit regions must be ensured and the transport links also needed to be maintained to support business activities.

Author: Daniel Ren, SCMP

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