Most of Shanghai Goes ‘Lock Down’, While Mass COVID-19 Tests Begin

China started implementing lockdown against parts of its largest city, Shanghai, on Monday (28/3), as the coronavirus outbreak soared and amid questions about the economic toll from the country’s “zero-COVID” strategy.

The Pudong financial district in Shanghai and surrounding areas is under lockdown from Monday morning to Friday (1/4), while mass COVID tests are underway, the local government said. In the second phase of the lockdown, the sprawling downtown area west of the Huangpu River that divides the city will begin lockdown five days on Friday (1/4).

Residents will be asked to stay at home and consignments will be left at checkpoints to ensure there is no contact with the outside world. Offices and businesses that are not considered essential will be closed and public transportation suspended.

Many communities in the city of 26 million have undergone lockdown, with their citizens required to do some COVID-19 tests. Disney theme parks in Shanghai are among businesses that have closed previously.

Shanghai detected another 3,500 cases of infection on Sunday (27/3), although all, except 50 cases, tested positive but showed no symptoms of COVID-19. China classifies such cases separately from “confirmed cases” – those who fell ill – which led to the much lower total in daily reports.

China has reported more than 56,000 cases across the country on Marte, with the spike in Jilin, the northeastern province, which accounted for most of the rise in cases.

Medical workers are seen wearing hazmat suits while working in a residential area under lockdown in Shanghai, China, on March 25, 2022. (Photo: Reuters/Aly Song)

Medical workers are seen wearing hazmat suits while working in a residential area under lockdown in Shanghai, China, on March 25, 2022. (Photo: Reuters/Aly Song)

In an effort to contain its biggest outbreak in two years, China continues to pursue what it calls a “dynamic zero-COVID approach,” calling it the most economical and effective prevention strategy against COVID-19.

The strategy requires lockdown and mass testing, with close contacts often undergoing quarantine at home or at central government facilities. This strategy focuses on eradicating community transmission of the virus as soon as possible, often by locking entire cities.

While officials, including Communist Party chief Xi Jinping, have pushed for more targeted measures, local officials have tended to take a more extreme approach, fearing they will be fired or punished for failing to prevent an outbreak.

With China’s economic growth having slowed, the extreme measures are seen as growing difficulties afflicting jobs, consumption and even global supply chains.

Although China’s vaccination rate is around 87 percent, it’s much lower among the elderly.

National data released earlier this month showed that more than 52 million people aged 60 and over had not been vaccinated against COVID-19 at all. Giving rate booster also low, with only about 56.4 percent of residents aged 60-69 having received booster injections, and 48.4 percent of residents aged 70-79 having received booster. [uh/rs]