SHANGHAI (Reuters) -Shanghai reported nearly 25,000 locally transmitted COVID-19 infections on Sunday and sought to assure locked-down residents of China’s most populous city that supply bottlenecks affecting availability of food and other items would ease.
Streets remained largely silent in the city of 26 million people as curbs under its “zero tolerance” policy allow only healthcare workers, volunteers, delivery personnel or those with special permission to move freely.
Wang Wenbo, a vice president at e-commerce giant JD.com, said at Shanghai’s daily briefing that the company is focused on basic foodstuffs and baby care items. Xiao Shuixian, senior vice president at Alibaba Group’s Ele.me, said it has brought in 2,800 more delivery workers in the past week.
COVID-19 case numbers in Shanghai are small by global standards, but the city is battling China’s worst outbreak since the virus emerged in the central city of Wuhan in 2019. Of the local cases Shanghai reported on Sunday, 1,006 were symptomatic while 23,937 were classed as asymptomatic, which China counts separately.
Shanghai has become a test bed for China’s COVID-management strategy in the face of the highly infectious Omicron variant as it seeks to test, trace and centrally quarantine all people who test positive, symptomatic or not, to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
The official Xinhua news agency on Sunday warned that an easing of China’s “dynamic zero-COVID approach” could be “disastrous”, given the danger the Omicron variant posed to people with underlying health conditions, the elderly and unvaccinated.
“China’s medical system would risk a collapse leading to enormous loss of life if it gives up on epidemic prevention and control,” Xinhua said.
China is sticking with its approach even as other countries seek to live with the virus. Heavy measures such as the separation of COVID-positive children from their parents – a practice it eased last week – have sparked criticism domestically and expressions of concern from diplomats.
Late on Saturday China’s foreign ministry expressed “strong dissatisfaction” with the United States after it raised concerns over China’s coronavirus control measures.
Videos posted online showed residents struggling with security personnel and hazmat-suited medical staff at some compounds in recent days, with occupants shouting that they needed food.
While the city government has been distributing food, many residents have complained that deliveries are insufficient.
Residents of other cities have expressed fear in social media groups that their areas might enter lockdowns, sharing screenshots of maps showing closed highways in many parts of the country.
China’s transport ministry said on Saturday that it was working with other government departments on standardising highway checkpoints because restrictions at local levels were causing congestion for critical supplies.
The southern metropolis of Guangzhou, home to 18 million people, on Sunday announced a halt to in-person teaching for most students.
The port city of Ningbo, meanwhile, said it was closing all indoor dining at restaurants and hotels and that people who had been in confined spaces since April 3 would undergo three days of daily testing. Ningbo reported three new confirmed COVID-19 cases on April 9.
On Saturday Beijing’s city government placed a high-risk area under lockdown after eight COVID cases were confirmed in two weeks, Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control, told reporters.
(Reporting by David Kirton in Shanghai and Yingzhi Yang in BeijingEditing by Tony Munroe and David Goodman)