Shanghai’s two-phase lockdown tests ‘zero-Covid’ limits

A two-phase lockdown of Shanghai’s 26 million people is testing the limits of China’s hardline “zero-Covid” strategy, which is shaking markets far beyond the country’s borders.

China’s largest city has entered the second day of the first phase of the lockdown, which includes the Pudong financial district and adjacent areas on the east side of the Huangpu River.

Measures confining Pudong residents to their homes, closing non-essential businesses and requiring mass testing are due to be lifted on Friday.

Residents visit Shanghai’s nearly empty Bund district (AP)

At that time, the vast area of ​​Puxi across the river will be closed.

With public transport suspended and bridges and tunnels connecting the two sides of the city closed, the city’s usually busy streets – including the riverside Bund in Puxi with its historic buildings – were unusually quiet.

Shops along the nearby Nanjing Road Pedestrian Shopping Street were mostly closed, with few people out and about.

Restaurants only offered take-out and a long line formed outside a McDonald’s of people waiting for their orders.

The shutdown adds to financial market anxiety over Russia’s war on Ukraine, the US Federal Reserve’s efforts to quell soaring inflation by raising interest rates and other challenges economic.

Market reactions, including Monday’s 7% drop in oil prices in London, do not reflect the “true reality of the situation”, but investors were already worried about China and the global economy, he said. said Michael Every of Rabobank.

Virus outbreak in China
A man lifts his child to take a COVID-19 test at a private coronavirus mobile testing facility (AP)

“We have a whole mountain of issues to worry about, and this is just one of many buttresses,” he said.

“If that’s all it is, a Covid lockdown, it’s not hard to look in recent history books and see how it plays out. But it interfaces with a lot of other issues.

The new Omicron BA.2 subvariant of the coronavirus is widely blamed for causing a new surge in cases in Shanghai, which had suffered relatively little impact from the pandemic that was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in China at the end of 2019.

Elsewhere in China, new cases continued to fall in Hong Kong following a recent surge that claimed more than 7,000 lives.

The semi-autonomous city has recorded 7,680 new cases, with no immediate word on whether authorities plan to carry out mass testing of all of its 7.4 million residents.

Virus outbreak in China
Students wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus are escorted by a teacher as they leave school after class in Beijing (AP)

Jilin Province in the northeast of the country had 1,055 of the 1,228 new confirmed cases and 812 of the 5,658 asymptomatic cases reported Tuesday on the mainland.

In Shanghai, panic buying hit markets and some residents reported shortages of meat and vegetables, including on online platforms.

Authorities are scrambling to secure food supplies and have converted gymnasiums and exhibition centers to house patients, most of whom show no symptoms.

Empty streets in Shanghai
Two-phase lockdown will affect all of Shanghai’s 26 million people (AP)

Government workers in hazmat suits, joined by about 68,000 volunteers, have fanned out and are stationed at checkpoints around residential compounds walled with traffic dividers and improvised barriers.

Shanghai recorded 4,477 new cases on Monday, all but 95 asymptomatic.

Despite a nationwide increase, the number of new Covid-19 deaths remained low, with two more added on March 20 for a total of 4,638.

The low number of deaths and the total of 145,808 cases since the start of the pandemic is only a fraction of the toll in the United States and other countries, and is presented by China as proof of the wisdom of his approach.

Shanghai’s lockdown is set to become the biggest of any city in China’s virus campaign, in which millions of people have been confined to their homes for weeks in cities across much of the country.

Despite calls for a more targeted approach and some system tweaks, conditions in Shanghai show the government continues to rely on extreme measures, regardless of the social and economic costs.

Authorities say the two-phase approach was designed to reduce disruption and, unlike past situations, specific end dates have been given for the lockdown in Shanghai.