Shanghai reports first deaths in its COVID-19 outbreak

Authorities in Shanghai on Monday reported the first COVID-19 deaths in the outbreak in China’s most populous and wealthy city.

The three deceased were elderly, had previous illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension, and had not been vaccinated against the coronavirus, local Health Commission inspector Wu Ganyu told reporters.

“After entering the hospital, their conditions worsened and they died after efforts to save them were unsuccessful,” Wu said.

The deaths bring to 4,641 the death toll in China since the disease was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

Most of Shanghai’s 25 million people were confined to their homes for a third week as part of the Chinese government’s zero-tolerance strategy to combat contagion, which requires isolating anyone who might be infected.

China said on Monday that 23,362 people had tested positive for the virus in the previous 24 hours, most without symptoms and almost all in Shanghai.

The city has reported more than 300,000 cases since the end of March. Shanghai began lifting restrictions last week, though authorities have warned that the city has failed to bring its outbreak under control.

Shanghai, home to China’s largest port and stock exchange, seemed ill-prepared for such a daunting task.

Residents in lockdown have been left without food and basic necessities, and tens of thousands of people ordered to remain under medical observation have been confined to overcrowded facilities where lights are always on, wastebaskets overflow, food is inadequate and showers are of hot water are conspicuous by their absence.

Anyone who tests positive but has few or no symptoms must spend a week in a quarantine center.

Concerns about the economic effects of the government’s strict policy have been growing.

Chinese economic growth rose in the first quarter of 2022 to 4.8%, a figure still weak, compared to the previous year. Official data showed growth had accelerated from 4% the previous quarter.

Although the country’s ruling Communist Party has called for less widespread prevention measures, local authorities have routinely adopted strict measures, possibly fearing removal or sanctions for outbreaks in their regions.

In the city of Wenzhou, which has suffered just a handful of cases, authorities have authorized rewards of up to 50,000 yuan ($7,800) for information on people falsifying their health certificates, according to the online newspaper The Paper.

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