Covid in Shanghai: the United States forces its personnel to leave – 04/12/2022 at 11:19


The American flag flies over a consulate vehicle, in July 2019 in Shanghai (AFP/Greg Baker)

The United States, which fears the “welfare” of American citizens, announced on Tuesday that it had ordered non-essential employees of its consulate to leave Shanghai, against the background of the outbreak of an epidemic and the imposition of severe restrictions on the Chinese economic capital.

The capital is facing the strongest increase in Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. To deal with this, authorities are confining nearly all of the population of 25 million to their homes.

But the measure has led to logistical problems, as some Shanghainese residents struggle to get food supplies.

Another controversial measure: People who test positive for the coronavirus, even if they don’t show symptoms, are placed in solitary confinement in makeshift quarantine centers — with rest and sometimes rudimentary hygiene.

C’est dans ce contexte que Washington a “ordonné” le départ de Shanghai de son personnel non essentiel “en raison de l’épidémie de Covid-19 en cours”, an indiqué mardi dans un communiqué un porte-parole de l’ambassade United States.

The number of people affected by this decision is unknown and it is not clear whether departure from Shanghai would mean exit from Chinese territory.

“The United States has no higher priority than the safety and security of American citizens abroad, including members of the Chinese mission and their families,” the statement said.

The embassy said US diplomats had informed Chinese authorities of their “concerns for the safety and well-being of American citizens”.

– ‘Increased risk’ –

Beijing said on Tuesday that the decision to evacuate part of the US staff from the Shanghai consulate or not is Washington’s responsibility alone, but regretted the publicity of the measure.

Chinese diplomatic spokesman Zhao Lijian told the press that China was “very upset and firmly opposed any exploitation or politicization” of the evacuation.

Last week, the US Embassy already allowed non-essential consulate employees to leave Shanghai. It held that US citizens risk facing the “arbitrary application” of anti-Covid restrictions.

Staff in protective suits against Covid-19 organize the delivery of food to residents of a closed neighborhood on April 10, 2022 in Shanghai (AFP / Hector Ritamal)

Staff in protective suits against Covid-19 organize the delivery of food to residents of a closed neighborhood on April 10, 2022 in Shanghai (AFP / Hector Ritamal)

The Health Department reported more than 23,000 new positive cases in the city on Tuesday. The numbers are very high for China, which is one of the last countries in the world to implement the zero Covid strategy.

This consists of several measures: confinement as soon as few cases appear, separation of people who test positive from the rest of the population, visas issued intermittently, quarantine on arrival in the territory or even tracking of movements.

Most of Shanghai’s residents were still confined on Tuesday, although residents of some “low-risk” neighborhoods were able to leave their homes, provided that no new cases were detected in their area.

Health workers wear Covid-19 protective suits on a street in a confined area in Shanghai, April 8, 2022 (AFP/Hector RETAMAL)

Health workers wear Covid-19 protective suits on a street in a confined area in Shanghai, April 8, 2022 (AFP/Hector RETAMAL)

The shutdown of major cities is disrupting China’s economy and threatening global supply chains.

The European Union Chamber of Commerce, in a letter sent to the Chinese government and consulted by AFP, warned that tough measures against the virus were “undermining the confidence of foreign investors”.

Nomura analysts are also concerned about the “rising risk of a recession” in China, when more than a quarter of the population is confined to varying degrees, accounting for 40% of the country’s GDP, they estimate.

– Exhibition centers –

The epidemic in Shanghai surprised its residents, convinced that no major epidemic outbreak could reach the most developed city in the country.

In order to ensure that those who tested positive are isolated from the rest of the population, authorities have installed tens of thousands of beds in exhibition centers or prefab buildings.

Many online residents complain that food delivery is difficult, especially due to the lack of people who can deliver products.

A reception structure for people who have tested positive for Covid-19, on April 7, 2022 in Shanghai (AFP/STR)

A reception structure for people who have tested positive for Covid-19, on April 7, 2022 in Shanghai (AFP/STR)

Unverified videos of dogs being beaten to death on suspicion of transmitting the virus have caused an outcry on social networks.

However, after the criticism, authorities have watered down a controversial policy of separating children infected with the coronavirus from parents who have tested negative. Children under the age of seven can now be accompanied.

In the face of demand, major online delivery platforms for meals and fresh produce have also announced that they will boost their inventory and hire thousands of additional service providers.

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