Shanghai enforces new COVID tests, parts of China extend shutdowns

SHANGHAI/BEIJING, July 18 (Reuters) – Several major Chinese cities, including Shanghai, are rolling out new mass testing or expanding lockdowns to millions of residents to counter new clusters of COVID-19 infections, with some measures being criticized on the Internet.

China reported an average of around 390 local daily infections in the seven days ending Sunday, up from around 340 seven days earlier, according to Reuters calculations based on official data on Monday. Read more

While that’s tiny compared to a resurgence in other parts of Asia, China is adamant about implementing its aggressive zero-COVID policy of eliminating epidemics as soon as they emerge. Previously, when a surge became a major epidemic, local authorities were forced to take tougher measures such as month-long closures, even at the expense of economic growth.

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Continued outbreaks and more shutdowns could add pressure on the world’s second-largest economy, which contracted sharply in the second quarter from the first after widespread COVID lockdowns rattled industrial production and consumer spending. Read more

The Shanghai Mall, which has yet to fully recover from the harsh two-month shutdown in the spring and is still reporting sporadic daily cases, plans to hold mass testing in several of its 16 districts and some areas. smaller ones where new infections have been reported recently, after similar testing last week. Read more

“There is still an epidemic risk at the community level so far,” the city government said in a statement.

Shanghai reported more than a dozen new cases, but none were found outside quarantine zones, local government data showed on Monday.

“I am speechless,” said a Shanghai resident surnamed Wang, who is already being tested every weekend at her residential compound. “It looks like a waste of resources that doesn’t solve the real problem.”

The northern city of Tianjin, which has launched several rounds of mass testing in recent months to curb earlier outbreaks, said on Monday it was testing its more than 12 million residents again, after the discovery two local infections.

In the northwest city of Lanzhou, the lockdown in four major districts with around 3 million people that started last week has been extended until July 24.

In the city of Zhumadian, in central China, the confinement of several million people in a few cities under its jurisdiction was extended for a few days until Monday or Tuesday.

The city of Chengdu in the southwest of the country said on Monday it had suspended various entertainment and cultural venues, expanding over the weekend those restrictions that had been limited to a few districts.

The capital Beijing, after a week without a local infection, discovered two cases on Monday – an international flight crew member and the person’s roommate. Authorities have sealed off the affected buildings.

“NO HUMANITY”

Authorities in the southern region of Guangxi said late on Sunday that they removed two Beihai city officials from their posts for acting improperly in their COVID response.

Beihai, with a population of 1.9 million and currently registering more than 500 infections, has launched several rounds of mass testing and locked down some areas.

On Sunday, more than 2,000 tourists were stranded in the city.

In the southern city of Guangzhou, COVID control staff members broke locks on apartment doors without residents’ consent, sparking uproar on social media over the weekend.

Authorities in a district of Guangzhou apologized to residents on Monday.

The issue was among the hottest topics on China’s Twitter-like social network Weibo.

“Too horrible, too ridiculous,” wrote one Weibo user. “No humanity, no law.”

In the northeast city of Changchun, subway passengers have been asked to wear N95 masks throughout their journeys. Many cities, including Beijing, only mandate surgical masks.

Changchun has been free of local cases since mid-May, while a nearby small city under its jurisdiction has reported fewer than 20 cases since July 15.

Jin Dong-yan, professor of virology at the University of Hong Kong, said N95 respirators are able to offer better protection than surgical masks during major outbreaks, but could be low cost- effectiveness in low COVID risk areas.

“In a city without cases, the N95 mask mandate would be painful and inconvenient.”

(This story corrects to show that the two cases found in Beijing are not both local cases, clarifies Changchun case details, paragraphs 13, 22)

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Reporting by Roxanne Liu, Brenda Goh, Ryan Woo and Shanghai Newsroom; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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