TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Shanghai city authorities said Wednesday they will begin rounds of COVID-19 tests in the coming days to determine which neighborhoods can safely be allowed a limited amount of freedom of movement, since residents in Beijing Keep an eye out for news on whether the capital city will go on lockdown.
On Wednesday, China reported 14,222 new cases, the vast majority of which were asymptomatic. The country is battling its biggest outbreak since the pandemic was first reported in Wuhan in late December 2019.
Shanghai health committee deputy director Zhao Dandan announced Wednesday that the city will begin another round of tests for city residents in the coming days to determine which districts are at lower risk. Areas that have been declared to have achieved “social zero COVID” could see some degree of limited freedom.
The phrase, used by Chinese health authorities, refers to when new positive cases are only discovered in people who are already under surveillance, such as in centralized quarantine or those who are considered close contacts. At this point, they are considered to have broken the chains of transmission at the community level.
Shanghai’s total lockdown has been in place for almost a month, which has affected residents. who have been confined to their homes. While a small and fortunate portion of people have been allowed to leave their homes in the last week, the vast majority of people remain confined.
Authorities reported 48 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total to at least 238 in the city.
Meanwhile, the capital city Beijing is in the midst of mass testing millions of residents after cases were discovered over the weekend. The city reported 34 new cases on Wednesday, 3 of which were asymptomatic.
In recent days, nervous Beijing residents had begun stockpiling food and supplies, following the troubles in Shanghai, where residents struggled to obtain a continuous and reliable supply of food during the lockdown.
Beijing city officials were quick to promise that they would make sure grocery stores were well stocked. They said they were monitoring the Xinfadi wholesale market, from which the city gets the vast majority of its supply, at a news conference on Tuesday night.
Demand has skyrocketed, with city residents sharing lists online of what to stock. Farms on the outskirts of Beijing told the official Beijing Daily News that April and May are usually when demand peaks. Compared to the same period last year, the number of orders increased by 20%, due to the demand generated by the epidemic, according to a major farm interviewed by the newspaper.
Another farm said it was even more. “As of yesterday, the number of orders we received has clearly increased, about double the amount at this time last year,” supply chain manager Zhang Xinming told the Beijing Daily News.
It is not clear if the entire city will be forced to close. For now, officials have locked down only specific areas where positive cases were found. On Wednesday, Beijing’s Tongzhou district suspended classes at all its schools from kindergarten to high school.
With China for now remaining committed to its zero-tolerance approach, “I think we will continue to see these lockdowns used across the country,” said Karen Grepin, a public health expert at the University of Hong Kong. “If anything, the omicron variant has made it more difficult to control the virus and therefore more stringent measures are needed if the goal is to continue to fight for local elimination.”
The “zero-COVID” strategy has worked well compared to previous versions of the virus, ensuring that for most of the past two years, people in China were able to live largely virus-free lives.