Pictures circulating on social media are raising concerns about the conditions of millions of Shanghai residents who are deprived of outdoor and sometimes food due to strict confinement. The United States, which fears the “well-being” of American citizens, announced on Tuesday that it had ordered non-essential employees of its consulate to leave Shanghai, against the backdrop of an epidemic outbreak and strict confinement in the capital.
China’s economic capital is facing its biggest wave of 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.
Lack of food
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.
A spokesman for the institute said in a statement on Tuesday that Washington had “ordered” the departure of non-essential staff from Shanghai “due to the ongoing outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic.”
The number of people affected by this decision is unknown and it was not immediately clear whether the 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”.
The Ministry of Health reported more than 23,000 new positive cases in Shanghai on Tuesday. Very low numbers compared to the infection rate in Europe, but 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.
Some residents managed to leave their homes
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.
Last week, the US Embassy already allowed non-essential consulate employees to leave the city. It held that US citizens risk facing the “arbitrary application” of anti-Covid restrictions.
In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused Washington on Saturday of “baseless accusations.” “It should be emphasized that China’s epidemic control policy is scientific and effective,” he said, adding that China has made “serious protests” to the United States.
The US decision to withdraw non-essential staff from the Shanghai consulate also comes amid an ongoing diplomatic, economic and military rivalry between Beijing and Washington.
Isolation centers in perilous conditions
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. Unverified videos of dogs being beaten to death on suspicion of transmitting the virus have caused an outcry on social networks.
Children over 7 years old separated from their parents…not the youngest
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 taken.
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.