SHANGHAI, April 17
Shanghai has set a goal of stopping the spread of COVID-19 outside quarantine zones by Wednesday, two people familiar with the matter said, which would allow the city to further ease its lockdown and begin to return to normal life as public frustrations grow.
The goal will require officials to speed up COVID testing and the transfer of positive cases to quarantine centers, according to a speech by a local Communist Party official dated Saturday, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.
The end of community-level transmission was a turning point for other Chinese localities that have locked down, such as the city of Shenzhen, which last month reopened public transport and allowed businesses to return to work shortly after having achieves this 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 infections since early March when its outbreak began.
Frustrated Shanghai residents have taken to social media to express their anger at local authorities over food supply difficulties, loss of income, separated families and poor conditions at central quarantine centres. Tensions have sometimes erupted into public demonstrations or scuffles with police.
China’s economy and global supply chains are also feeling pinched by shuttered factories and transportation bottlenecks in many parts of China hit by COVID-19 restrictions.
Shanghai’s new goal of “zero COVID at the community level” by April 20 was communicated in recent days to Communist Party cadres in the city and organizations such as schools, the sources said, who declined to comment. be named because the information was not public.
China’s definition of zero-COVID status at the community level means that no new cases emerge outside quarantine zones.
A speech dated Saturday from the city’s Baoshan District Party Secretary described it as an order that came as the city’s situation reached a ‘critical moment’ with growing public anxiety and supply pressures. eating.
“The State Council working group, the municipal party committee and the municipal government have requested that the epidemic turning point be reached on the 17th and COVID zero status be reached on the 20th,” Chen Jie said in his statement. speech.
The Shanghai government and China’s State Council did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Baoshan district government could not be reached by phone outside of working hours on Sunday.
“This is a military order, there is no room for negotiation, we can only grit our teeth and fight for victory. You can also say that this is an all-out attack, a battle of the last chance to reverse the trend of the epidemic,” the speech read.
A Shanghai resident told Reuters his neighborhood committee sent a notice to residents on Sunday saying more workers and buses had been mobilized to speed up the transfer of positive cases in their compound to quarantine centers.
Images and videos circulating on Chinese social media on Saturday evening showed many buses lined up to take long lines of people who users said had tested positive for COVID outside a town in the Pudong district. , in the east of Shanghai. Reuters was unable to verify the authenticity of the messages.
Of 23,643 new local infections reported in Shanghai on Saturday, 722 were discovered outside quarantine zones, according to Wu Jinglei, director of Shanghai’s health commission. He told a news conference on Sunday that the figure had fallen over the past two days.
REOPENING OF SHOPS
China’s “dynamic clearance” approach to COVID control requires authorities to centrally quarantine all cases and isolate their close contacts.
Beijing authorities intervened in Shanghai in early April, after the financial hub failed to isolate COVID-19 despite the city’s phased lockdown. Chinese President Xi Jinping has insisted that China must not ease coronavirus measures and must stick to an elimination approach.
Shanghai began locking down areas east of the Huangpu River on March 28 and extended the citywide lockdown on April 1. Although he eased movement restrictions for some residents last week, most businesses remain closed and public transport is suspended.
Business leaders have been increasingly outspoken about the toll the lockdowns have had on the Chinese economy, with automakers warning they could be forced to halt production altogether if their suppliers in Shanghai and neighboring areas fail to could not return to work soon.
On Friday, China’s industry regulator said it had identified 666 companies in Shanghai in the semiconductor, automotive and medical sectors as priority companies to resume work.
Late Saturday, Shanghai authorities provided guidance on steps companies should take to restart production in the city, such as stockpiling medical supplies and submitting COVID prevention plans for their factories.
Reuters reported that Tesla TSLA.O is preparing to reopen its Shanghai factory on April 18.
SAIC Motor Corp 600104.SS, the Chinese partner of Volkswagen and General Motors, said it was preparing to resume production and would begin conducting “stress tests” on Monday.