Shanghai authorities have reported the first Covid-19 deaths in the latest outbreak in China’s largest and wealthiest city.
The three people who died were elderly, suffered from underlying illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension and had not been vaccinated against the coronavirus, Health Commission Inspector Wu Ganyu told reporters.
“After entering the hospital, their condition worsened and they died after attempts to save them failed,” Wu said.
The deaths bring to 4,641 the number of people China says have succumbed to the disease since the virus was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019.
Most of Shanghai’s 25 million people are confined to their homes for a third week as China continues to employ a “zero tolerance” strategy to curb the outbreak, requiring the isolation of anyone potentially infected.
On Monday, officials said 23,362 people had tested positive for the virus in the past 24 hours, most of them showing no symptoms and nearly all of them in Shanghai.
The city has reported more than 300,000 cases since late March. Shanghai began easing restrictions last week, although officials warned the city was not getting its outbreak under control.
Shanghai, home to China’s largest port and largest stock exchange, seemed unprepared for such a massive undertaking.
Residents have run out of food and basic necessities while enduring lockdown conditions, and tens of thousands of people placed under medical observation have been sequestered in overcrowded facilities where the lights are always on, trash cans overflowing, the food is insufficient and hot showers non-existent.
Anyone who tests positive but has few or no symptoms must spend a week in a quarantine facility.
Concerns have grown over the economic impact of the government’s intransigent policy.
China’s economic growth edged up to 4.8% from a year earlier in the first three months of 2022 as shutdowns reduced output in major industrial cities. Official data showed that growth accelerated from 4% in the previous quarter.
While the ruling Communist Party has called for more targeted prevention measures, local officials have routinely enacted strict regulations, perhaps out of fear of being fired or penalized if an outbreak occurs in their area.
In the city of Wenzhou, which has only had a handful of cases, authorities have allowed rewards of up to 50,000 yuan (£6,000) for information about people who falsify their health status, a reported the online news site The Paper.