BEIJING (AP) — COVID-19 cases in China’s largest city, Shanghai, continue to rise with millions isolated at home under a sweeping lockdown, as the draconian “zero tolerance” approach to the pandemic is attracting more and more complaints from locals who are fed up with the restrictions.
On Sunday, health officials reported 438 confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, along with 7,788 asymptomatic cases. Both figures were up slightly from the previous day, while the northeastern province of Jilin recorded a total of 4,455 cases on Sunday, also marking an increase from Saturday.
Although small by some countries’ standards, the daily increases are among the largest since the virus was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019.
Shanghai, with its 26 million people, began a two-stage lockdown last week, with residents in the eastern section of Pudong expected to be allowed to leave their homes on Friday, while neighbors in the western section of Puxi were undergone their own four-day period of isolation.
Despite this assurance, millions of people in Pudong continue to be confined to their homes amid complaints about food deliveries and the availability of medicine and health services.
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Notices given to residents said they were required to self-test daily for COVID-19 and take precautions, including wearing masks at home and avoiding contact with family members – measures that have been little applied since the first days of the pandemic.
While Wuhan endured a 76-day lockdown in 2020 with relatively few complaints, residents of Shanghai – many of whom were in isolation even before the lockdown began last week – seem increasingly tired of the measures and methods used. to apply them.
Although coverage in China’s wholly state-controlled media remains overwhelmingly positive, complaints have surfaced online, including in the form of videos and sound recordings claiming to show brutal practices by officials and volunteers and alleging that sound medical advice was ignored in favor of political expediency.
“While there was little societal resistance to the lockdown once it was imposed in Wuhan, the resistance in Shanghai is palpable now,” Dali Yang, a political science professor at the University of Chicago, tweeted on Sunday.
Given that the vast majority of cases in Shanghai are not life-threatening, “it is not surprising that imposing lockdowns and forcibly quarantining infected people under harsh conditions is met with resistance,” he said. Yang tweeted.
A city official last week apologized in response to complaints about the government’s handling of the lockdown, and a deputy premier made demands for sweeping improvements during a tour of Shanghai on Saturday.
Sun Chunlan, who sits in the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo, called for “resolute and prompt measures to stem the spread of COVID-19 in Shanghai as soon as possible”, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
However, Sun stressed “unwavering adherence” to China’s tough “zero-COVID” approach, imposing lockdowns, enforced isolation of all suspected cases and mass testing, while acknowledging the social toll and resulting economy.
“It is a daunting task and a huge challenge to fight the omicron variant while maintaining the normal functioning of basic functions in a megacity,” Sun said.
She called for safeguarding key industries and institutions and the operation of supply and industrial chains in the mall, as well as ensuring “basic living conditions and normal medical needs for people”.
State media reports indicate that President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping is leading the continuation of the tough approach, while seeking to avoid further damage to the shattered economy and ensure overall stability ahead of a key congress. of the party scheduled for November.
Despite surging infections, China has not recorded any new COVID-19-related deaths since March 20, when two were added for a total of 4,638. China’s vaccination rate is over 87% – although significantly lower in older people – and omicron is known to be more infectious while the disease it causes is generally milder than with the previous delta variant.
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