© Reuters. A worker is tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on a street during the lockdown, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Shanghai, China, May 2, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song
By Brenda Goh and Sophie Yu
SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s commercial capital of Shanghai was dealt a blow on Monday as authorities reported 58 new COVID-19 cases outside quarantine areas while Beijing pressed on with testing millions of its people on a May Day holiday few were celebrating.
Tough coronavirus measures in Shanghai have stirred rare public anger, with millions of the city’s 25 million people confined indoors for more than a month, some sealed inside fenced off residential compounds, and many struggling to secure daily necessities.
Shanghai residents breathed a sigh of relief at the weekend on news that no cases had been confirmed outside quarantine areas for two days, but bad news came on Monday with the report of the 58 new infections.
Authorities did not comment on the new cases at a media briefing but members of the public weighed in online.
“They announced that they stamped out cases at the community level too early,” one person commented on the Weibo (NASDAQ:) social media platform.
But many people also took heart from data that showed an encouraging trend with 32 new deaths on Sunday, compared with 38 a day earlier, and 6,606 new asymptomatic cases, from 7,084 the previous day.
“There is hope for May,” said another Weibo user.
The coronavirus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 and for the two years authorities managed to keep outbreaks largely under control with lockdowns and travel bans.
But the fast-spreading Omicron variant has tested China’s “zero-COVID” policy this year, an important one for President Xi Jinping who is expected to secure a precendent-breaking third leadership term.
NEW FOCUS ON BEIJING
China’s COVID policy looks increasingly bizarre to much of the outside world, where many governments have eased restrictions, or thrown them off altogether, in a bid to “live with COVID” even though infections are spreading.
China has given no hint of deviating from its policy despite a mounting toll on the world’s second-largest economy, and the ripples of disruption travelling out through global supply chains.
In the capital, home to 22 million people, authorities tighten COVID restrictions over the five-day Labour Day holiday that runs through Wednesday, traditionally one the busiest tourist seasons.
Beijing, with dozens of daily infections in an outbreak now entering two weeks, has not locked down, instead relying, at least for now, on mass testing to locate and isolate infections.
Beijing’s restaurants are closed for dining in and some apartment blocks are sealed shut. The streets are quiet and the residents who do venture out have to show negative coronavirus tests to enter most public venues.
Authorities are tracking down close contacts of confirmed cases, warning them to stay at home and contact authorities, and calling on everyone to abide by lockdown rules.
China reported 7,822 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, down from 8,329 new cases a day earlier, the National Health Commission said on Monday.
All of China’s 32 new deaths were in Shanghai, taking the country’s overall death toll since the virus emerged to 5,092.
India, the only country with a comparable population to China’s 1.4 billion people, has officially recorded more than half a million deaths, though some health experts believe its toll is even higher.