SHANGHAI — Shanghai is aiming to contain the spread of COVID-19 outside of quarantine zones by Wednesday, two people familiar with the matter said, which would allow the city to further ease its lockdown and cause public dismay. As normal life will start coming back. to grow.
The goal would require officials to accelerate COVID-19 testing and move positive cases to quarantine centers, according to a speech by a local Communist Party official on Saturday, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.
Ending community-level transmission has been a turning point for other Chinese localities, such as the city of Shenzhen, which reopened public transport last month and allowed businesses to go back to work soon after achieving that goal.
Shanghai has become the epicenter of China’s biggest outbreak since the virus was first identified in Wuhan in late 2019, and has recorded more than 320,000 COVID-19 infections since its surge began in early March. have been done.
Frustrated Shanghai residents have taken to social media to vent their anger at local officials over food, lost income, separated families and poor conditions at central quarantine centres. Tension has arisen on this occasion in public protests or scuffles with the police.
The Chinese economy and global supply chains are also feeling impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions, with factories closed and transportation bottlenecks in many parts of China.
Shanghai has already taken piecemeal steps to ease restrictions. State TV reported Sunday that some supermarkets have reopened their doors to shoppers, though many residents expressed disbelief over social media postings. A social media account backed by the Shanghai government said it was in a district on the outskirts.
Shanghai’s new target of “zero-COVID at the community level” by April 20 had been communicated to organizations such as the city’s Communist Party cadres and schools in recent days, according to sources, who said the information was not public. The reason declined to be named.
China’s definition of zero-COVID status at the community level means that no new cases are reported outside the quarantine zones.
In a speech on Saturday by the party secretary of the city’s Baoshan district, it was described as an order that reached a “grave moment” in the city’s situation, with increasing public concern and pressure on food supplies.
Chen Jie said in the speech, “The State Council Working Group, the Municipal Party Committee and the Municipal Government have said that the turning point of the epidemic should be on the 17th and the zero-COVID situation should be reached on the 20th.”
The Shanghai government and the State Council of China did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Baoshan district government could not be contacted by phone outside working hours on Sunday.
“This is a military order, there is no room for bargaining, we can only gnash our teeth and fight for victory. It can also be said that it is a total attack, a move to reverse the trend of the pandemic. It’s a last ditch battle.” Speech said.
A Shanghai resident told Reuters that his neighborhood committee sent a notice to residents on Sunday that more workers and buses were mobilized to move positive cases to quarantine centers on their premises.
Images and videos circulated on Chinese social media on Saturday evening showed several buses clearing long lines of people testing positive for COVID-19 outside a city in Shanghai’s East Pudong district. Reuters was unable to verify the authenticity of the post.
Of the 23,643 new local infections Shanghai reported on Saturday, 722 were found outside the quarantine zones, according to Wu Jinglei, director of Shanghai’s health commission. He told a press conference on Sunday that this figure has come down in the last two days.
China’s “dynamic clearance” approach to COVID-19 control requires officials to centrally isolate all cases and isolate their close contacts.
Beijing officials intervened in Shanghai in early April after the financial hub failed to isolate COVID-19 despite shutting down the city in phases. Chinese President Xi Jinping has insisted that China should not relax coronavirus measures, and stick to the elimination approach.
Shanghai began locking down areas east of the Huangpu River on March 28, and extended the citywide lockdown on April 1. Although it imposed curbs on movement for some residents last week, most businesses remained closed and public transport remained suspended.
Business leaders have been increasingly vocal about the lockdown’s toll on the Chinese economy, with automakers warning they may have to stop production altogether if their suppliers in Shanghai and neighboring regions cannot resume work soon. can be forced.
On Friday, China’s industry regulator said it had identified 666 companies in the semiconductor, automobile and medical sectors in Shanghai as priority firms that need to resume work.
Late on Saturday, Shanghai officials gave guidance on what measures firms should take to restart production in the city, such as stocking up on medical supplies and submitting a COVID-19 prevention plan for their factories.
Reuters has reported that Tesla is preparing to reopen its Shanghai factory on April 18.
Volkswagen and General Motors’ Chinese partner SAIC Motor Corp. has said it is preparing to resume production and will begin conducting “stress tests” on Monday.