As Shanghai expands Covid lockdown, life on hold in city of 26 million

By Reuters   March 31, 2022 | 11:58 pm PT
As Shanghai expands Covid lockdown, life on hold in city of 26 million
A police officer in a protective suit keeps watch on a street, as the second stage of a two-stage lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 begins in Shanghai, China April 1, 2022. Photo by Reuters/Aly Song
China's commercial hub of Shanghai ground to halt on Friday after the government locked down most of the city's 26 million residents.

The action is to stop the spread of Covid-19, even as official numbers put local cases falling for the second day in a row.

The city government late on Thursday extended an existing lockdown in eastern districts, just as western parts of the city were shut down as scheduled.

Fresh official guidance indicated that many in China's most populous city will now be required to stay home as long as it takes to control the outbreak - instructed not to cross their doorsteps even to dispose of rubbish or walk their dogs.

Public transport in most of the city has been suspended, while businesses considered non-essential, like restaurants and shopping malls, have also had to close.

The lockdown, designed to stop an outbreak of the highly transmissible Omicron variant that started about a month ago, began on Monday and was originally due to last 10 days in total. Areas east of Shanghai's Huangpu River were to be closed for five days, before reopening as western districts began a five-day shutdown.

But the city government said it would lift the curbs in east Shanghai in stages instead.

This means the majority of districts are now under a lockdown that covers the office towers of the Lujiazui district, China's answer to Wall Street, and factories including Volkswagen's joint venture with SAIC Motor and U.S. automaker Tesla's plant.

China's outbreak is small by global standards. But Shanghai, now accounting for three out of every four local asymptomatic cases across the country, has emerged as a test bed for the national government's handling of Covid - a "dynamic clearance" approach which aims to test for, trace and centrally quarantine all positive cases.

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