A senior Shanghai official on Thursday acknowledged shortcomings in the local government’s handling of a surge in coronavirus cases, a rare admission of mistakes in China’s economic and financial might.
Officials in the metropolitan area of 26 million people imposed tough restrictions that rattled many, first locking down individual neighborhoods before reversing course and imposing a staggered citywide lockdown. the city which they believe would allow them to carry out mass testing.
In response, several banks and investment firms in the country’s financial hub are keeping traders and money managers in their offices to maintain business. Companies provided rollaway beds, sleeping bags and other items for staff camping at work.
The closures prompted panic buying as people rushed to stock up before being confined to their homes, and some complained online about not being able to get some essentials. Some residents, including people who say they need dialysis and chemotherapy, said they struggled to receive medical assistance during the lockdown.
The official, Ma Chunlei, deputy secretary general of the Shanghai government, called the surge in Omicron cases the city’s “most difficult challenge”, saying officials were not “sufficiently prepared for the dramatic increase the number of people infected”. Most of the cases come from the highly contagious subvariant of Omicron known as BA.2, which has caused an outbreak in parts of Europe.
“We sincerely accept everyone’s criticism and work hard to improve,” Ma told a press conference. It did not elaborate or address specific complaints.
Shanghai’s health commission on Thursday reported 5,653 new confirmed Covid cases the day before, of which 5,298 were asymptomatic. More than 30,000 cases have been identified in the past month, compared to just a handful.
The number of cases in China is low compared to many countries, especially when it comes to serious illnesses and deaths. But the central government is pushing officials across the country to eradicate the virus, rolling out some of the toughest measures in the world.
Critics of the Shanghai government have exploded since the Omicron outbreak began this month. Tuesday, a publication appeared on popular Chinese social media site Weibo asking people for help. It is not known who created the post. On Thursday he had received 200 million views.
A family that concern registered on the site was that of Zhang Benxian, a 58-year-old resident of Pudong. He said his wife had uremia – a buildup of toxins in the blood – and the lockdown had made it difficult for them to get the mandatory PCR tests they needed for her to receive treatment in hospital. Mr. Zhang said that his wife had not received treatment for five days, even though it had to be done every other day.
“His body has no more strength; she can’t even sit still,” Mr. Zhang said in a phone interview.
Shanghai health authorities said patients in need of treatment like Mr. Zhang’s wife should not be denied access to medical care.
Shanghai initially took a surgical approach to restrictions, opting to lock down only specific neighborhoods and only test residents who came into close contact with confirmed cases, arguing that its role as China’s economic capital meant it could not afford a complete shutdown like other Chinese cities.
But in a change of course, the east side of the city has now been placed under lockdown, which will be lifted on Friday once testing efforts in the area are complete. Then, the western part of the city will be subject to the same restrictions from Friday.
Health officials said on Wednesday that Shanghai had tested 9.1 million people so far during this round of lockdown which began on Monday.