Amid rising coronavirus outbreaks and questions about the economic damage to the country’s “zero-covid” strategy, China on Monday launched a major lockdown in its largest city, Shanghai.
The local government said Shanghai’s Pudong Financial District and surrounding areas would be locked down from Monday to Friday morning as city-wide mass examinations were underway. In the second phase of the lockdown, the vast downtown area west of the Huangpu River that divides the city will then begin its own five-day lockdown on Friday.
Residents must stay at home and be dropped off at delivery checkpoints to ensure there is no contact with the outside world. Offices and businesses that are not considered necessary will be closed and public transport will be suspended.
Meanwhile, many communities in 26 million cities have been locked down, requiring residents to submit multiple tests for COVID-19. And Shanghai’s Disney theme park is one of the first businesses to close.
China has reported more than 56,000 infections nationwide this month, most of them in the northeastern province of Jilin.
In response to the largest outbreak in two years, China has continued to apply the “dynamic zero-covid” approach, calling it the most profitable and effective prevention strategy against COVID-19.
This requires lockdowns and mass examinations, often quarantined at home or at a central government facility with close contact. The strategy focuses on eliminating community transmission of the virus as soon as possible, sometimes locking entire cities.
Although officials, including Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, have encouraged more targeted action, local officials have taken a more extreme approach, fearing dismissal or otherwise being punished for failing to contain the outbreak.
With China’s economic growth already slowing, extreme measures are being seen as a challenge to employment, consumption and even hitting the global supply chain.
Although the vaccination rate in China is about 87%, it is significantly lower among the elderly.
National data released earlier this month showed that more than 52 million people aged 60 and over have not yet been vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine. Booster rates are also lower, with only 56.4% of people aged 60-69 receiving booster shots, and 48.4% of people aged 70-79 receiving booster shots.