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The Financial Express

Half of Shanghai achieves 'zero Covid'

| Updated: May 12, 2022 10:00:27


A resident and a child look out through gaps in the barriers at a closed residential area during lockdown, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Shanghai, China, May 10, 2022. Reuters A resident and a child look out through gaps in the barriers at a closed residential area during lockdown, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Shanghai, China, May 10, 2022. Reuters

Data released by Shanghai, in its sixth week of a painful lockdown, showed the city recorded no cases outside areas under the strictest curbs on Tuesday for the first time since May 1.

Half of the city's 16 districts had achieved zero COVID status having not recorded any such cases for three days, reports Reuters. 

Despite achieving that important milestone, officials said it was not time to ease curbs.

"We must clearly recognise that the current situation is not stable and the risk of a rebound still remains,” Zhao Dandan, deputy director of Shanghai’s health commission, told an online press conference.

China's "zero COVID" approach has meant hundreds of millions across dozens of cities face various degrees of restrictions on movement, most dramatically in Shanghai.

Beijing said on Wednesday it detected 37 new infections on May 10, the lowest since April 26. Shanghai's cases were down to their lowest since March 23 at 1,487.

The ruthlessly-enforced isolation has caused significant economic damage in China and beyond and taken a huge psychological toll on many, fuelling rare outpourings of anger at the authorities.

In Beijing, where authorities were trying to avoid Shanghai's fate, many businesses have been closed and large numbers of people were told to work from home in an effort to end an outbreak of dozens of daily cases.

In rare public comments on a government's handling of the pandemic, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday that China's zero-tolerance COVID-19 policy is not sustainable given what is now known of the virus.

He said better tools to fight COVID suggested it was time for a change in approach. China, which has kept its borders all but shut to international travel for two years, is a global outlier as much of the world tries to live with the virus.

A United Nations Weibo post of Tedros' comments was removed from the Twitter-like platform on Wednesday shortly after being posted. The United Nations and Weibo did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The WeChat platform blocked sharing of a similar UN post, citing a "violation of rules".

'LIFE FIRST'

China's leaders doubled down last week on their goals to eradicate outbreaks of the virus, and threatened action against critics of the policy, which authorities say "puts life first."

China has pointed to the millions of deaths caused by the virus in other countries. Its official toll since the virus first emerged in the city of Wuhan in late 2019 is just over 5,000, far below the nearly 1 million deaths in the United States.

New modelling by scientists in China and the United States sees the risk of just over 1.5 million COVID deaths if China ditches its zero-COVID policy without any safeguards such as ramping up vaccination and access to treatments. Read full story

Only half of China's over-80s are vaccinated.

Speaking after Tedros, WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan said the policy's impact on human rights also needs to be taken into consideration.

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