Shanghai has said it will lock down each half of the city by turns for mass Covid-19 testing starting Monday amid surging infections.
The eastern half of the city – comprising around 11 million residents – will go into lockdown at the start of the week for four days, while the 14 million remaining people will start lockdown from Friday, the Shanghai government said on Sunday night.
Everyone is required to participate in the citywide Covid-19 screening to maintain a “green” health code status that would allow them to access grocery stores and public areas.
During their respective lockdowns, people will be banned from going out, and all non-essential workers must work from home. Public transport including buses, subways, ferries, and taxis in lockdown areas will also be suspended.
Shanghai registered 2,678 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday alone, accounting for nearly half of all new cases recorded in China that day, according to the country’s National Health Commission.
China’s inability to bring its latest outbreak under control so far has prompted online rumblings from frustrated citizens, as questions about Beijing’s zero-Covid strategy break into the mainstream for the first time.
In Shanghai – a city with some of the best infrastructure in the country – social media complaints suggest that systems intended to ensure residents have what they need are failing, as lockdowns are extended without notice.
“How can I buy groceries? … I can’t get medicine for my kids …how can we order this online when we can’t even get a hospital appointment?” wrote one social media user, who said their Shanghai neighborhood had been closed for 15 days.
Officials have said they are making “every effort” to ensure supplies by supporting residents to use online platforms to get what they needed or arranging bulk purchasing and distribution.
In coping with the surging cases across the city, the Shanghai government has distributed rapid antigen test kits to households in low-risk areas, testing more than 14 million people as of Sunday. In a bid to relieve the pressure on hospitals. several indoor stadiums and exhibition centers in the city have been converted into centralized quarantine facilities for Covid-19 patients who are asymptomatic or present mild symptoms.
Despite sealing off more residential compounds after Covid-19 cases were detected, Shanghai was reluctant to implement a citywide lockdown before the Sunday announcement. “If Shanghai came to a complete halt, there would be many international cargo ships floating in the East China Sea,” said Wu Fan, a medical expert with the city’s pandemic task force on Saturday.
China is still reluctant to impose full, citywide lockdowns despite rising case numbers – the highest since the pandemic started.