BEIJING (AP) — China began a lockdown in the city of Shanghai on Monday as part of its strict strategy to control the COVID-19 pandemic and amid questions about the economic impact of the country’s “zero contagion” strategy.
Shanghai’s Pudong financial district and nearby areas will be under lockdown from Monday morning to Friday as diagnostic tests are carried out across the city, the local government said. In the second phase of the lockdown, the huge area west of the Huangpu River, which runs through the city, will start its own five-day lockdown from Friday.
To ensure there is no contact with the outside, residents will have to stay home and deliveries will be left at checkpoints. Offices and all non-essential services will also be closed and public transport service will be suspended.
The city of 26 million people has already closed many communities, and its residents are required to undergo multiple tests for COVID-19. Among the businesses that have closed is the Disney theme park in Shanghai.
On Sunday, Shanghai detected another 3,500 cases, of which 50 were from asymptomatic people. In China, these cases are classified separately from “confirmed cases”, those of sick people, so the totals are much lower in daily reports.
This month, China reported more than 56,000 infections across the country, most of which were in the northeastern province of Jilin.
To deal with its biggest outbreak in two years, China is maintaining what it calls the “proactive zero COVID” approach, which it sees as the cheapest and most effective prevention strategy against COVID-19.
To achieve this, massive lockdowns and testing are necessary, and close contacts are often quarantined at home or in a government facility. The strategy focuses on eradicating community transmission of the virus as soon as possible, sometimes involving the closure of entire cities.
While authorities, including Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, have pushed for more targeted measures, local officials tend to take a more extreme approach for fear of being fired or punished over allegations of failure to prevent buds.
With economic growth slowing in China, extreme measures are seen as worsening difficulties hitting employment, consumption and even supply chains globally.
While China’s vaccination rate hovers around 87%, the percentage is considerably lower among the elderly.
National data released earlier this month shows that more than 52 million people age 60 and older have yet to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Booster rates are also low, with only 56.4% of people aged 60-69 having received a booster shot, and 48.4% of people aged 70-79 having received a dose.