Shanghai authorities scoured the city of 25 million people for its last remaining COVID cases Thursday in the hope of ending its draconian six-week lockdown that has seen trapped residents screaming from their apartment windows in rage.
Meanwhile, Beijing halted taxi services to try to curb the city’s own virus outbreak.
Shanghai’s mass testing detected just two new cases outside areas facing the strictest movement restrictions Thursday, but that was two more than the previous day, when zero cases were reported.
The Chinese commercial hub in recent days has been tightening its lockdown to choke out the virus by the end of the month as part of its controversial “zero-COVID” policy, which the head of the World Health Organization called “not sustainable” this week, earning a rebuke from Beijing.
The new cases were found in two of the city’s 16 districts, Xuhui and Fengxian, that authorities said this week were among eight that had achieved “zero COVID” status, having had no community cases for three consecutive days.
The latest cases show the challenge in eradicating the highly transmissible Omicron variant despite ruthless enforcement of some of China’s harshest restrictions since the virus emerged in the city of Wuhan in late 2019.
The new infections also raise questions about how long a return to normal life might last under China’s uncompromising policy after the lockdown is finally lifted.
Yu Linwei, vice-governor of Xuhui, told a news conference his district would not relax anti-epidemic efforts, making sure everyone is tested and that new cases and their close contacts are isolated in quarantine as quickly as possible.
“We dare not slack off,” he said.
In an apartment building in Shanghai’s Jing’an district, residents were told once again they cannot leave their units after being allowed out last week to walk around the complex.
“As restrictive as it was, those 10 minutes of freedom, being able to get some fresh air outside my building and walk my dog, kept my sanity,” building resident Stephanie Sam, 27, said on the WeChat social media site.
The re-tightening of restrictions has “taken away the last slither of hope I had about this dystopian nightmare ending anytime soon,” she said.
A video that circulated briefly on social media showed police in safety suits at someone’s door with quarantine orders.
One officer told a man he would face punishment that would affect his family for three generations if he did not comply.
“We are the last generation,” the man responded.
In Beijing, daily COVID cases remained in the dozens, prompting officials Wednesday to suspend taxis and ride sharing services in three city districts Wednesday.
Authorities there have banned dine-in services at restaurants, closed some malls, entertainment and tourist venues, suspended sections of its bus and subway systems and imposed lockdowns on some residential buildings.
China’s caseloads are tiny fractions of what major cities around the world have come to shrug off, as most countries lift restrictions to “live with the virus” even though infections are still spreading.
China has doubled down on its global trend-bucking policy, putting hundreds of millions of people in dozens of cities under movement curbs, causing significant economic damage and disruption to international trade and supply chains.
With Post wires