Shanghai govt says will not fully lift Covid-19 lockdown in eastern districts on Friday

People lining up outside a noodle store in Shanghai on March 31, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - A Covid-19 lockdown in the eastern areas of China’s commercial capital of Shanghai will not be fully lifted on Friday, the city government said on Thursday (March 31).

The lockdown will be lifted in some areas, while continuing in others according to Covid-19 risks, the city government said.

Mr Ma Chunlei, deputy secretary general of the Shanghai government, had told a daily news conference earlier on Thursday that officials would look at testing results and confer with experts to determine how the lifting of the first stage of the lockdown would be carried out.

The city of 26 million people is in the fourth day of a two-stage lockdown. Authorities have split the city into two, roughly along the Huangpu River, dividing the historic centre west of the river from the eastern financial and industrial district of Pudong for the exercise.

The eastern half went into lockdown on Monday and were expected to be lifted at 5am on Friday.

However some residents told Reuters they were prepared to asked to stay in for longer, especially as the number of new Covid-19 cases continues to rise.

The western half of the city is set to undergo similar restrictions from Friday. Public transport in the areas west of the river are set to be shut and residents locked into their homes from 3am on Friday.

Residents in the western districts rushed to stock up on groceries on Thursday as they braced to go under lockdown, as the city’s authorities issued an appeal for continued cooperation with tight curbs imposed to stop Covid-19 spreading.

In central Shanghai, vegetable sellers and butchers hawked their wares from behind barriers set up ahead of the lockdown and on sidewalks. Restaurants advertised their stock at deep discounts through chat groups, hoping to ease some of their losses.

"Lockdown super deal!!! 50 per cent off on steaks", said a pamphlet from a high-end steak house in the city.

The Shanghai authorities on Thursday appealed to residents to keep cooperating with tight curbs imposed to stop Covid-19 from spreading, saying they recognised the frustrations as China's most populous city entered the fourth day of a two-stage lockdown.

The city reported 5,298 locally transmitted new asymptomatic cases and 355 symptomatic cases for Wednesday, compared with 5,656 local asymptomatic cases and 326 new cases with symptoms reported a day earlier.

Shanghai accounted for almost 80 per cent of local asymptomatic cases reported across the whole of China for Wednesday, and about 20 per cent of those with symptoms.

In a letter to the city's residents, the Shanghai government said it was grateful for citizens' efforts and acknowledged their sacrifices, as it sticks with China's "dynamic clearance" approach - detecting the virus, tracing contacts and centrally quarantining all positive cases.

"Pandemic prevention and control work have brought much inconvenience to people," it said in the letter, posted to its official WeChat social media account on Thursday. "Some of you have been in quarantine and lockdown for a long time. The city deeply appreciates everyone's understanding and cooperation." 

Many across the city have taken to social media to vent their frustrations in lockdown, posting videos and images of crowded quarantine centres and also issuing calls for help with medical treatment and purchasing food.

The outbreak and curbs to stop its spread have caused massive disruptions to the lives of its residents as well as to the many businesses there.

US electric car maker Tesla is extending a production halt at its Shanghai factory for at least one day, having already suspended production since Monday, two sources told Reuters.

Volkswagen’s Shanghai joint venture with SAIC Motor said it would maintain some production between April 1-5 by providing accommodation and meals at its factory for employees who had volunteered to work, it said.

Shanghai government official Ma acknowledged that the city could have done more, and that authorities were trying to improve provision of food supplies as well as addressing issues with seeking medical help.

"Our knowledge about the highly contagious Omicron variant has been insufficient, we were inadequately prepared for the fast-rising number of infected patients, and our control measures have not been up to speed," he said.

Still, despite irritation among some in Shanghai who question its practicality, the dynamic clearance approach adopted by China will not be relaxed, state news agency Xinhua said in a commentary late on Wednesday. The tactic was essential to protect lives and the people's health, Xinhua said.

In Shanghai, the city government said it would try its best to prevent the pandemic from spreading further and secure daily necessities and medical services for everyone.

"We implore residents to keep cooperating and follow the pandemic control and prevention guidelines. We can only safeguard our home and our city through everyone's efforts."

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