(SHANGHAI) Millions of people were locked up in China on Wednesday as a resurgence of an epidemic raised fears of a return to restrictions, particularly in Shanghai, a month after long and strict lockdowns were lifted.
Posted at 6:37 p.m
Updated at 9:14 am.
China’s largest city was put under a curfew for two months in the spring to prevent the country’s worst outbreak of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
A particularly severe clampdown on economic capital has been a test for its 25 million people, who have faced problems supplying new products.
Strict measures to combat the virus, including the systematic placement of positive cases in quarantine centers, have fueled public outrage.
Shanghai raised 1R Most restrictions were imposed in June, but some neighborhoods were temporarily restricted after sporadic cases were detected.
Since Sunday, a resurgence has been seen and Shanghai reported 24 additional cases on Wednesday.
Screening tests have been started in most districts to identify contact cases.
“I don’t want to do it, it’s useless,” resident Alice Chan told AFP, though she was determined to do so after fearing her condition would turn red.
“People are no longer afraid of COVID-19, they are afraid of being locked at home,” said Yao, a Shanghainese who declined to give his last name.
Air of Deja Vu
Shanghai closed all its karaoke bars on Wednesday due to some cases of COVID-19, officials said.
Five weeks after the draconian lockdown was lifted, some residents fear a return to tighter restrictions.
A concern is fueled by the reception of food rations among some families, according to reports widely shared on social media.
“Putuo District (in central Shanghai, editor’s note) is sending vegetables again,” one resident wrote in a WeChat message.
On Wednesday, the health department reported nearly 300 new cases across the country.
The main affected area is the eastern province of Anhui, where 1.7 million people are currently trapped in two rural cities.
More than a thousand cases have been identified there since last week, and are now spreading across the border into neighboring Jiangsu (east), Shanghai and an important manufacturing region.
Ding Lu, economist at Nomura Bank, warns that the omicron variant is “a big problem for the Chinese economy”.
China is one of the latest countries to adopt a so-called “Zero Covid-19” strategy in the face of the pandemic. This health policy consists of positive screening, mandatory quarantines and targeted confinements in case of a positive PCR test.
Deemed necessary on health grounds by the authorities, these measures have resulted in many companies being fined for closed or inactive operations.
According to estimates by Nomura Bank, at least 114 million Chinese are subject to various travel restrictions, including imprisonment. They were 66 million a week ago.
According to local health officials, the major city of Xi’an (north) is re-enacting “control measures” after an Omicron outbreak linked to the BA.5.2 sub-line.
This strain is said to be highly contagious but less virulent.
Restaurants, bars, places of worship and even karaoke in the metropolis of 13 million people have closed for a week as a precaution.
Xi’an, the former imperial capital, is known around the world for the buried terracotta army of China’s first emperor.
The BA.5.2 sub-variant was also detected in Beijing, although officials on Wednesday considered the epidemic “under control”.
Nevertheless, the capital is strengthening its health measures: from July 11, libraries, museums and cinemas will be accessible only to people who have been vaccinated.