Shanghai eases 2-week shutdown, letting some residents out
Meanwhile, Washington set up a possible new clash with Beijing by announcing all “non-emergency U.S. government employees” would be withdrawn from its Shanghai Consulate while consular officers would stay. Last week, the Chinese government protested after the State Department stated that diplomats and their families could leave at will.
The unusual severity of Shanghai’s shutdown starting March 28 appeared to be driven as much by politics as by public health concerns. The struggle in China’s wealthiest city is embarrassing during a politically sensitive year, when President Xi Jinping will try to break with tradition by granting himself a third five year term as leader the ruling Communist Party.
The government reported 24,659 new cases through midnight Monday, including 23,387 with no symptoms. That included 23,346 in Shanghai, only 998 of whom had symptoms.
In Shanghai, more than 200,000 cases but no deaths have been reported in the latest wave of infections. The government announced that residents in Shanghai’s neighborhoods who have not had a case for at least two weeks will be allowed to leave their homes from Tuesday. They could travel to any other area with no new cases.
Shanghai has 7,565 such “prevention areas,” according to city officials cited by state media. They did not give details about the number of people affected.
People in 2,460 “control areas” with no new cases in the past week were allowed out but can’t leave their neighborhoods, the government said. Residents who have been infected in the last week are prohibited from leaving their homes.
The sudden shutdown caught Shanghai households off guard and led to complaints that they were left without food or medicine and were unable care for elderly relatives.
Some households received packages of vegetables and other food for a few more days at least twice. Others claimed they did not receive any food.
A Saturday video circulated online showed people from Songjiang stealing food cartons from a supermarket.
Another video showed people putting their fists in the air in front government employees wearing white protective suits. Another showed apartment dwellers shouting for help from their windows, while a third one was blocked from the outside.
The Associated Press could not find the source of the videos nor verify when or where they were taken. Although the supermarket video was identified with a Sina Weibo account number, it doesn’t appear on that account.
The ruling party demands that Chinese social media operators enforce censorship, and remove videos and other posts about banned topics. Online bulletin boards and social media are flooded with complaints about the Shanghai shut down and requests for food and medicine. It is not clear how many others may have been deleted.
Complaints about food shortages began after Shanghai closed segments of the city on March 28.
Plans called to close four districts for four days while residents were tested. After increasing numbers of cases, the city was forced to close all its districts for four days. Shoppers who received no warning took the supermarket shelves.
City officials publicly apologized and promised to improve food supply. Residents claimed that online grocers were often out of stock or unable to deliver. Online commerce companies claimed that they have added hundreds of employees to increase their delivery rates. The State Department advised Americans not to travel to China last week due to “arbitrary enforcement” local laws and anti virus restrictions. It cited a risk of “parents and children being separated.”
The Chinese foreign ministry criticized that announcement as a “groundless accusation against China’s epidemic response.”
On Tuesday, a State Department statement said the U.S. government decided “it is best for our employees and their families to be reduced in number” due to “changing circumstances on the ground.”
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