Shanghai aims for a turning point for lockdown by Wednesday
Shanghai aims for a turning point for lockdown by Wednesday

Shanghai aims for a turning point for lockdown by Wednesday

SHANGHAI, April 17 (Reuters) – Shanghai has set a target to stop the spread of COVID-19 outside quarantine areas by Wednesday, said two people familiar with the matter, which will allow the city to further ease its shutdown and begin to return to normal life as public frustrations grow.

The goal will require officials to expedite COVID testing and the transfer of positive cases to quarantine centers, according to a speech by a local Communist Party official dated Saturday, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

The end of community-level transmission has been a turning point for other Chinese locations that shut down, such as the city of Shenzhen, which last month reopened public transportation and allowed companies to return to work shortly after reaching that goal.

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Shanghai has been the epicenter of China’s biggest outbreak since the virus was first identified in Wuhan in late 2019, and has registered more than 320,000 COVID infections since early March, when its rise began.

Frustrated residents of Shanghai have taken to social media to vent their anger at local authorities over difficulties in obtaining food, lost income, separated families and poor conditions in central quarantine centers. Tensions have sometimes erupted in public protests or fights with police. Read more

The Chinese economy and global supply chains also feel squeezed by closed factories and transport bottlenecks in many parts of China hit by COVID-19 curbs. Read more

Shanghai has already taken steps to ease the restrictions. State television reported Sunday that some supermarkets had reopened their doors to shoppers, even though many residents expressed disbelief in social media posts. A Shanghai government-backed social media account said it was in a suburban district.

TURNING POINT

Shanghai’s new goal of “zero COVID at the community level” by April 20 was communicated in recent days to the city’s communist cadres and organizations such as schools, according to sources who declined to be named as the information was not public.

China’s definition of zero COVID status at Community level means that no new cases are emerging outside quarantine areas.

A speech dated Saturday by the city secretary of the city’s Baoshan district described it as an order that had come when the city’s situation reached a “critical moment”, with growing public anxiety and food supply pressures.

“The Council of State Working Group, the Municipal Party Committee and the Municipal Government have requested that the turning point of the epidemic should appear on the 17th and that zero-COVID status should be reached on the 20th,” Chen Jie said in the speech.

The Shanghai government and Chinese government did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Baoshan district government could not be reached by phone outside of business hours on Sunday.

Residents line up for nucleic acid test during a lockdown, amid pandemic with coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Shanghai, China, April 16, 2022. REUTERS / Aly Song / File Photo

“This is a military order, there is no room for negotiation, we can only grit our teeth and fight for victory. One can also say that this is a total attack, a last ditch battle to reverse the trend of the epidemic.” said the speech.

A resident of Shanghai told Reuters that her neighborhood committee sent out a message to residents Sunday that more workers and buses had been mobilized to speed up the transfer of positive cases in their area to quarantine centers.

Photos and videos circulated on Chinese social media on Saturday night showed several buses queuing to take long lines of people away, which users said had tested positive for COVID outside a city in Shanghai’s eastern Pudong district. Reuters was unable to confirm the authenticity of the posts.

Of the 23,643 new local infections Shanghai reported on Saturday, 722 were found outside quarantine areas, according to Wu Jinglei, director of the Shanghai Health Commission. He told a news conference Sunday that the number had dropped in the past two days.

BUSINESSES REOPEN

China’s “dynamic clearance” approach to COVID control requires central authorities to quarantine all cases and isolate their close contacts.

Authorities in Beijing intervened in Shanghai in early April after the economic hub failed to isolate COVID-19 despite the city being locked down in stages. Chinese President Xi Jinping has insisted that China must not ease coronavirus measures and must stick to an elimination approach. Read more

Shanghai began locking areas east of the Huangpu River down on March 28 and extended the blockade throughout the city on April 1. While it eased movement restrictions for some residents last week, most businesses remain closed and public transportation is suspended.

Business executives have been increasingly candid about the strain of the Chinese economy’s shutdowns, and carmakers have warned they could be forced to stop production altogether if their suppliers in Shanghai and the surrounding areas could not resume work soon. Read more

On Friday, China’s industrial regulator said it had identified 666 companies in Shanghai in the semiconductor, automotive and pharmaceutical sectors as priority companies to resume work. Read more

Late Saturday, the Shanghai authorities provided guidance on what measures companies should take to restart production in the city, such as filling up with medical supplies and submitting COVID prevention plans for their factories.

Reuters has reported that Tesla (TSLA.O) is preparing to reopen its Shanghai plant on April 18. Read more

SAIC Motor Corp (600104.SS)the Chinese partner of Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) and General Motors (GM.N)has said it is preparing to resume production and will begin conducting “stress tests” on Monday.

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Reporting from Shanghai Newsroom; Editing by Edmund Klamann

Our standards: Thomson Reuters trust principles.

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