Shanghai to test half of the city on a massive scale, raising fears of another lockdown

Shanghai to test half of the city on a massive scale, raising fears of another lockdown

Shanghai to test half of the city on a massive scale, raising fears of another lockdown

The massive test announcements sparked fears of a return to a strict, prolonged lockdown among Shanghai residents, many of whom had been locked up at their homes for two months or more since March.

Those fears have led to panic buying. On Thursday, residents of Shanghai rushed to supermarkets to stock up on food and other daily necessities. They formed long lines at the cash registers and left the shelves empty, according to photos and videos that spread on social media

At least seven of the city’s 16 districts, with a combined population of 15 million people, will roll out mass testing this weekend, Zhao Dandan, deputy head of the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission, said at a news conference Thursday. The districts include the most populous areas of Shanghai and busy business centers such as Pudong and Xuhui.

Districts that have reported positive cases since Shanghai lifts the city-wide lockdown on June 1 will be placed under “closed management” while collecting test samples, Zhao said. She did not specify how long the sampling period will last.

In the Chinese zero-Covid policy lexicon, “closed management” usually refers to restrictions that prevent people from leaving their residential communities or workplaces.

Shanghai is finally going

But the massive testing campaign extends far beyond the seven districts named by Shanghai health authorities.

On Thursday evening, the Changning district, home to the Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport and a population of 700,000, announced on its official social media account that it will conduct massive Covid testing on Saturday.

“During the sampling period, closed management will be applied to residential communities, where (residents) can only enter but cannot leave,” the statement said.

Earlier on Thursday, Songjiang district said on social media that its 1.9 million residents are all required to undergo Covid testing this weekend.

Workers in hazmat suits erected barriers in front of a building in Shanghai on June 9 to prevent residents from leaving.

Abrupt U-turn

Chinese leaders have repeatedly vowed to adhere to the zero-covid policy, which aims to quickly eradicate local outbreaks with mass testing, rapid lockdowns, extensive contact tracing and quarantine.

Officials warn that easing the policy will lead to an increase in hospitalizations and deaths among the country’s elderly population – many of whom have yet to be fully vaccinated.

But the strategy faces an increasing challenge from the highly transmissible Omicron variant, causing increasing dissatisfaction among residents whose lives have often been disrupted.

In China, the detection of a single positive case can send an entire building or community into government quarantine and shut down several nearby neighborhoods for two weeks.

Since the easing of restrictions on June 1, Shanghai has continued to report Covid cases, including among residents outside quarantine areas. As a result, more and more neighborhoods have been placed under strict lockdown again.

Neighborhoods in Shanghai to close again a day after restrictions are eased

A video obtained by CNN shows high fences erected to demarcate much of the tree-lined former French concession area in downtown Shanghai.

On Thursday, Shanghai authorities reported six new local Covid cases, three of which were traced to a hair salon in the center. State media had previously reported that three employees in the salon tested positive, likely resulting in the quarantine of 13 other employees and 502 customers — and their close contacts — who visited the salon in the past week.

A Shanghai resident told CNN that more than 200 people living in two buildings near them have been locked down after two residents there were identified as having close contacts with the hair salon businesses.

Meanwhile, Beijing’s largest district announced on Thursday the closure of all entertainment venues, including bars, internet cafes and some sports facilities, just days after they reopened.

The abrupt turnaround came after authorities reported three local Covid cases, all linked to a bar in the Chaoyang district, home to the capital’s main nightlife scene. Several other districts in Beijing have since announced similar closures.