BEIJING (AP) — Shanghai will attempt to reopen again within days after eliminating transmission of COVID-19 among the general population as the outbreak in China’s largest city wanes, an official said Friday.
The city’s strict lockdown – now in its seventh week, but lifted and tightened at times to residents’ frustration – is part of the ruling Communist Party’s ‘zero-COVID’ policy that has taken a heavy economic toll and that even the world According to the Health Organization, this could be unsustainable.
The goal in Shanghai is to achieve “elimination in society”, meaning that any new cases would only involve people already in isolation, Vice Mayor Wu Qing told a news conference. This would allow for “orderly opening, limited (population) flow and differentiated management”, Wu said.
No exact date beyond the middle of the month was given, and Wu did not specify how the reopening would happen, except that the city intends to gradually restore industrial production, education and services. medical.
Shanghai officials have made similar assurances in the past, only for restrictions to return even as cases dwindle in the city of 25million.
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Complaints about food shortages and other hardships and videos posted online showing residents in Shanghai and other areas arguing with police have been deleted by censors.
In Beijing, which has a much smaller outbreak, more daily tests have been ordered, classes have been suspended, people have been ordered to work from home, restaurants are limited to take-out service and many stores, tourist sites, banks and government offices are closed.
Some residential communities are closed and residents have been warned to avoid traveling between city neighborhoods.
Shanghai reported 2,096 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, all but 227 in people without symptoms. Beijing has reported 50 cases, in line with recent daily totals.
In a Friday briefing, National Health Commission spokesperson Mi Feng said that although the number of cases is decreasing, local transmission has not been fully cut off in some places and the situation remains. “dark and complex”.
In a sign that testing could become routine in the future, authorities have ordered all cities to set up testing sites within a 15-minute walk of where people live. Shanghai alone now has more than 5,700 in operation, with plans for another 4,200, state media reported.
China’s foreign ministry has called “irresponsible” the WHO’s doubts expressed earlier this week about continuing with the “zero-COVID” approach of imposing strict lockdowns, mass testing and mandatory dismissal to overcrowded centralized quarantine centers of anyone who tests positive or is a close contact.
Experts have questioned the continued use of the policy given that vaccines are widely available and it has affected the growth of the world’s second-largest economy as well as global supply chains.
Yet he has increasingly identified with Chinese President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, who is determined to maintain tight social control and strengthen his and the party’s authority ahead of a key party congress later this year.
Already severely limited rights to privacy, free speech and personal autonomy have been further curtailed in the name of fighting the pandemic. China’s borders have been largely closed for more than two years, and this week the government said it would tighten restrictions on Chinese citizens’ overseas travel and tighten control over passport issuance.
At a meeting last week, the party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee said it was committed to “resolutely fighting any attempt to distort, question or reject China’s anti-COVID policy.” “.
“In the face of growing uncertainties due to COVID-19, one thing remains certain: China will stick to its aggressive zero COVID policy which has proven to be pragmatic and effective,” the official Xinhua news agency said in a statement on Thursday. editorial.
The epidemics in China and the resulting restrictions have led to the cancellation or postponement of a number of events, including the Asian Games originally scheduled for September in the city of Hangzhou, 177 kilometers (110 miles) to west of Shanghai.
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