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Shanghai launches China’s largest COVID-19 blockade in two years

Beijing (AP) — China launched the largest coronavirus blockade in two years on Monday, curbing an increase in outbreaks in Shanghai and raising questions about the economic sacrifice of the country’s “zero corona” strategy I did.

Shanghai, China’s financial capital and largest city with a population of 26 million, has managed previous small outbreaks by limiting the blockade of virus-infested housing estates and workplaces. rice field.

However, the two-stage blockade of the entire city is the most widespread in China since the central city of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected in late 2019, with 11 million in 76 days in early 2020. A person is trapped in his home. Since then, it has been blocked.

The local government said the Pudong financial district in Shanghai and its surrounding areas will be locked down from Monday to Friday due to extensive testing underway. In the second phase of lockdown, the vast downtown area west of the Huangpo River, which divides the city, owns a five-day lockdown on Friday.

Residents must be at home and deliveries are left at checkpoints to avoid contact with the outside world. Offices and all businesses not considered mandatory will be closed and public transportation will be suspended.

Already, many communities in Shanghai have been locked down for the past week as housing estates are blocked by blue and yellow plastic barriers and residents need to submit multiple tests for COVID-19. increase. Disneyland Theme Park in Shanghai is one of the closed companies. According to media reports, automaker Tesla has also stopped production at its Shanghai plant.

Panic buying was reported on Sunday, and food, drinks and household items were removed from supermarket shelves. An additional barrier was built in the neighborhood on Monday, and workers in Hazmat suits were placed at checkpoints.

The face-to-face observation of Qingming Festival on April 5 will be canceled and a monument will be held online instead.

Some workers, including traders on the city’s stock market, were preparing to stay within the COVID-19 “bubble” during the blockade.

Lee Jiamin, 31, who works in the financial industry, said he was stuffing clothes and supplies for several days and that the company is organizing sleep and meal arrangements.

“The overall impact is still significant,” Lee told The Associated Press, noting the losses suffered, especially for workers in the informal sector who did not receive such support.

Huang Qi, 35, who works at a local university, said he had previously been blocked at home, secured inventory and prepared for a new round.

“I don’t think our school workers will be significantly affected if this closure continues, but what about those who work in the real economy? How can their business be maintained? “Huang said.

“We still hope that our society can find a better balance between ensuring a normal life and epidemic prevention and management,” Huang added.

Shanghai detected an additional 3,500 cases on Sunday, but all but 50 were coronavirus-positive and did not show symptoms of COVID-19. Asymptomatic people can infect others, but China classifies such cases separately from “confirmed.” Cases ”—Cases of sick people — The total daily report is much smaller.

Nationally, 1,219 newly confirmed cases of domestic infection were detected on Sunday, more than 1,000 of which were detected in the northeastern part of Dirin, and 4,996 asymptomatic cases were reported on Monday.

Two deaths were reported in Jilin Province on March 20, but prior to that, the official death toll in mainland China was 4,636 in a year.

China reported more than 56,000 confirmed cases nationwide this month, most of which are Jilin’s surge.

Jilin has implemented travel bans and partial blockages in several cities, including Changchun, one of the centers of China’s automobile industry. It was as extreme as anywhere else.

Jilin City is constructing a prefabricated temporary ward to accommodate COVID-19 patients and suspected patients. Suzhou City, about an hour from Shanghai, Changsha in the center of the country, and the northeast have also built such structures that can accommodate more than 6,000 people.

Shanghai itself has remodeled two gymnasiums, an exhibition hall, and other facilities to accommodate potential infected patients.

China calls the long-standing “zero tolerance” approach the most economical and effective preventive strategy for COVID-19.

The new measures being implemented in Shanghai are aimed at “controlling the spread of the virus, protecting people’s lives and health, and achieving the dynamic zero COVID goal as soon as possible.” ..

This requires blockades and mass testing, and close contacts are often quarantined at home or in central government facilities. This strategy focuses on eradicating the viral community infection as quickly as possible.

Officials, including Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, are encouraging more targeted measures, but local officials are concerned that they will be dismissed or punished for failing to prevent the outbreak. Tends to take a more extreme approach.

Recently, Hunan Province, which has only a relatively small number of cases, has ordered 19 officials to be punished for “not being able to actively integrate pandemic measures,” state media CCTV reported on Monday. rice field.

China’s economic growth has already slowed, and extreme measures are expected to exacerbate employment, consumption and even the difficulty of damaging the global supply chain. The 21-day curfew for all foreigners arriving abroad has dramatically reduced travel between China and other countries.

On Friday, the International Air Transport Association announced that it would move its annual meeting from Shanghai to Doha because it “continues COVID-19-related restrictions on travel to China.”

“It’s a shame we can’t meet on schedule in Shanghai,” IATA Secretary William Walsh said in a news release.

Nonetheless, Shanghai’s announcement on the date the two siege will be lifted seemed to show further refinement of China’s approach. The previous blockade of the entire city was unrestricted.

The vaccination rate in China is about 87%, but the vaccination rate for elderly people who are prone to serious illness when infected with the virus is considerably low.

In Hong Kong, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam said the government is still considering the next step on what has been criticized for stopping the response to the recent fifth wave of COVID-19 infection. It has resulted in tens of thousands of cases and more than 7,000 deaths.

Lam said it has not been decided whether or when to test all 7.4 million residents of the semi-autonomous region of southern China.

“I don’t have a timetable yet. It’s not as easy to pre-determine a timetable as I don’t know how quickly the incident will come down,” Ram told reporters at a daily briefing. Told.

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Associated Press researcher ChenSi contributed to this story from Shanghai, China.

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