China sends health workers, military to Shanghai amid COVID wave
China has sent more than 10,000 health workers to Shanghai from across the country, including 2,000 from the military, as it struggles to stamp out a fast-spreading outbreak in its biggest city as part of its zero-COVID strategy.
Shanghai conducted a mass test of its 25 million residents on Monday as the second week touted as a two-phase lockdown began. Most of eastern Shanghai, which was due to reopen last Friday, remained locked down along with the western half of the city.
While many factories and financial firms have been allowed to continue operating if they isolate their workers, concerns grew over the potential economic impact of a prolonged lockdown in China’s financial capital, a key shipping and manufacturing hub.
The highly contagious Omicron BA.2 form of the virus is testing China’s ability to maintain its zero-COVID approach, which aims to stop outbreaks from spreading by isolating all those who test positive, whether they have symptoms or not not. Shanghai has turned an exhibition hall and other facilities into massive isolation centers, housing people with mild or no symptoms in a sea of beds separated by temporary partitions.
China on Monday reported more than 13,000 new cases across the country in the past 24 hours, of which nearly 12,000 were asymptomatic. About 9,000 of the cases involved Shanghai. The other major outbreak occurred in northeast China’s Jilin Province, where more than 3,500 new cases have emerged.
The lockdown in Shanghai has sparked numerous grievances, from food shortages to limited staff and facilities at hastily constructed isolation sites. Some people who tested positive stayed home for long periods due to a lack of isolation beds or transportation to take them to a center, business news publication Caixin said.
Asked about the anxiety of parents being separated from their children, Shanghai Health Commission official Wu Qianyu said Monday that if the child tests positive and the parent tests negative, they must remain separated, according to the online News Agency Paper.
If both test positive, the parent will be allowed to stay with the child at a child isolation facility and be treated there, Wu was quoted as saying at a news conference on Monday.
China Daily newspaper said nearly 15,000 medical workers from neighboring provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang left their hospitals by bus for Shanghai early Monday. More than 2,000 personnel from the army, navy and a joint logistical support force arrived on Sunday, according to a Chinese military newspaper.
At least four other provinces have also dispatched doctors, nurses and other medical personnel to Shanghai, the state-owned China Daily said.
Workers in blue protective gear held up signs reading “Keep a meter away” and “No crowds” as people queued for tests in a part of western Shanghai. The tests were conducted in batches, 10 people at a time. If the sample is positive, all 10 are tested individually.
While most shops and other businesses in Shanghai are closed, major manufacturers including automakers General Motors Co. and Volkswagen AG say their factories are still operating. VW has cut production due to an interruption in the supply of parts.
Businesses that are operational are enforcing “closed-loop” policies that isolate employees. Thousands of stock traders and others in the financial industry are sleeping in their offices, according to the Daily Economic News.
According to a survey conducted last week by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai and the American Chamber of Commerce in China, three out of five foreign companies with offices in Shanghai say they have lowered this year’s sales forecasts. A third of the 120 companies that responded to the survey said they had delayed investing.
Shanghai has set up makeshift vegetable warehouses to increase supplies, and an online grocery delivery service has doubled the staff at one of its warehouses to keep up with demand, the official Xinhua News Agency said. City officials have apologized for the government’s handling of the lockdown.