As coronavirus outbreaks spread across China, Shanghai is introducing new rounds of lockdowns to be rolled out sequentially across the city’s neighborhoods, the city government announced on Sunday night, as part of an effort to test its entire population of 26 million.
The restrictions and mass testing will start Monday morning in areas east of the Huangpu River, with those lasting until April 1. Restrictions and testing in districts west of the river will begin on April 1 and continue until April 5.
According to the announcement, all citizens, except for those providing essential and public services, will not be allowed to leave their neighborhoods. Nonessential businesses and transportation will also cease operations.
Shanghai, China’s largest city and a global financial center, saw daily new cases spike to over 2,600 on Sunday, from just a handful in early March. Hospitals and medical staff are stretched thin. Some neighborhoods in other districts with a concentration of cases have already been under lockdown for over a week, with an increasing number of people reporting problems securing daily necessities, including medical supplies.
Unlike other Chinese cities, Shanghai had never before imposed a full-scale citywide lockdown, but the current measure comes close. Since China’s first coronavirus outbreak emerged in Wuhan in late 2019, the government has sealed off major cities like Xi’an and Shenzhen as part of its stringent “zero Covid” approach. Shanghai, by contrast, has resorted to “grid screening.” The method has been hailed by the city’s health officials as a more accurate and efficient way to carry out testing in individual neighborhoods, and is in line with Beijing’s new approach to keeping the virus in check while minimizing financial pain.
Wu Fan, an official of Shanghai’s Health Commission, stressed in a news conference on Saturday that the city cannot enter a full-scale lockdown. “Because Shanghai is not only Shanghai for the people of Shanghai, but it also plays an important role in the national economic and social development, and even has an impact on the global economy,” she said. Ms. Wu implored the citizens to treat the current screening process seriously, so that the city could resume normal life efficiently and at minimal cost.
Over the last five days, Shanghai has already conducted over 30 million P.C.R. tests in key areas of the city that were identified as higher risk for infection, as well as in low-risk places. Health officials in Shanghai previously said that the city had the capacity to perform more than 1.9 million tests daily.