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COVID outbreak ‘extremely grim’ as Shanghai extends lockdown

BEIJING – The COVID-19 outbreak in China’s largest metropolis, Shanghai, remains “extremely grim amid an ongoing lockdown that has confined some 26 million people to their homes,” a city official said on Tuesday.

The director of the Shanghai epidemic control working group, Gu Honghui, was quoted by state media as saying that the outbreak in the city was “still progressing at a high level”.

“The situation is extremely grim,” Gu said.

China has dispatched more than 10,000 health workers from across the country to help the city, including 2,000 from the military, and is conducting mass tests on residents, some of whom have been confined for weeks.

Most of eastern Shanghai, which was due to reopen last Friday, remained locked down along with the western half of the city.

Shanghai on Monday recorded an additional 13,354 cases – the vast majority of them asymptomatic – bringing the city’s total to more than 73,000 since the latest wave of infections began last month. No fatalities have been attributed to the outbreak, which was caused by the omicron BA.2 variant, which is much more contagious but also less deadly than the previous Delta strain.

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A separate outbreak continues to rage in northeastern Jilin province, and the capital Beijing has seen a further nine cases, only one of which was asymptomatic. Workers shut down an entire mall in the city where a case had been discovered.

While China’s vaccination coverage is around 90%, its domestically made inactivated virus vaccines are considered weaker than the mRNA vaccines like those made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna and used overseas and in China’s Hong Kong and Macau territories. Vaccination rates among the elderly are also much lower than in the general population, with only about half of those over 80 being fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, complaints have surfaced in Shanghai over difficulties in obtaining food and essential necessities, as well as shortages of medical staff, volunteers and beds in isolation wards where tens of thousands are being held for observation.

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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.

Public outrage was fueled by reports and video clips released online documenting the death of a nurse who was denied admission to her own hospital due to COVID-19 restrictions, and infants who were separated from their parents.

The distribution of footage showing several infants held in cots prompted the city’s Public Health Clinical Center to issue a statement that the children were being well cared for and were in the process of being transferred to a new facility when the footage was captured .

At a virtual town hall on Monday, the US consulate in Shanghai warned of possible family separations amid the lockdown but said it had “extremely limited ability” to intervene in such cases.

Concerns are growing about the potential economic impact on China’s financial capital, which is also a major shipping and manufacturing hub. Most public transport has been suspended and non-essential businesses have closed, although airports and train stations remain open and the city’s port and some key industries such as car factories remain operational.

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International events in the city have been canceled and three in five foreign companies with offices in Shanghai say they have cut this year’s sales forecasts, according to a survey conducted last week by the American Chamber of Commerce. A third of the 120 companies that responded to the survey said they had delayed investing.

Despite these concerns and growing public frustration, China is sticking to its tough “zero tolerance” approach, mandating lockdowns, mass testing and mandatory isolation of all suspected cases and close contacts.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.ksat.com/news/world/2022/04/05/covid-outbreak-extremely-grim-as-shanghai-extends-lockdown/ COVID outbreak ‘extremely grim’ as Shanghai extends lockdown

Andrew Schnitker

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