Three Covid-19 fatalities have been reported in Shanghai, the first to be officially counted since the beginning of the city’s lockdown.
The three people reported on Monday included two women aged 89 and 91, and a 91-year-old man, who also had underlying health conditions, and were reportedly unvaccinated. Shanghai municipal authorities said the three were admitted to hospital and became critically ill. They died on Sunday “after all efforts were made to rescue them”.
As of 5 April, more than 92 million Chinese people over 65, including 20.2 million over the age of 80, were not fully vaccinated.
The outbreak of the Omicron variant in the Chinese city of more than 24 million people, has so far infected at least 320,000 people since March. It is the worst outbreak in China since the beginning of the pandemic, but despite the high number of cases, zero deaths had been attributed to it. Media reporting has revealed numerous deaths of people after they contracted Covid-19, particularly among elderly people in care homes, but authorities have largely attributed them to the underlying health complaints and not counted them as pandemic fatalities.
At a press conference on Monday, Wu Qianyu, a first-level inspector of the municipal health commission, said the direct cause of death of the three people was their underlying conditions, suggesting authorities have markedly changed the way they attribute Covid-19 deaths.
Shanghai authorities reported 22,248 cases for Sunday, including 19,831 asymptomatic. Of the total cases, 1,414 were detected outside quarantine and isolation facilities – where all positive cases must be sent, except those requiring hospitalisation.
The city has suggested it will consider the outbreak contained when there are no new cases found outside quarantined buildings or areas. On Monday Reuters reported authorities had set a target to stop the spread of the virus outside the quarantine and isolation system by Wednesday, which would allow some easing of restrictions.
There has been widespread unrest among Shanghai residents who have complained of food shortages and overzealous enforcement of restrictions, and businesses reporting major impediments to production and supply. It has sparked rare mass online complaints and some protests.
While bulk of cases are still being reported in Shanghai, there are multiple outbreaks across China. On Friday the northwestern city of Xian announced a four-day period of curbs on the movement of its 13 million residents, including the closure of entertainment venues and restaurant dining, and bans on some transport leaving the city. Xian was also the site of long lockdowns in December in response to an outbreak of the Delta variant. In Suining, Jiangsin province, authorities have conducted mass testing of almost 900,000 workers, and suspended trains. On Sunday Jilin province lifted its lockdown, but urged continued caution and advised residents to ensure they had enough supplies on hand for one month if needed for a future lockdown.
Additional reporting by Xiaoqian Zhu and Chi Hui Lin