Shanghai lockdown worries US as US diplomats move out of city

The United States has ordered the evacuation of non-emergency staff from its diplomatic mission in Shanghai as the city of 25 million enters its third week of a blanket lockdown to enforce China’s “zero-Covid” policy.

According to a notice over the weekend, US diplomats and their families were earlier authorized to visit on a voluntary basis. On Tuesday, however, the US mission in China said non-emergency staff had been ordered to depart after capacity at its consulate in Shanghai ran low.

“The change in our currency reflects our assessment that it is best for our employees and their families to reduce numbers and reduce our operations as we deal with changing conditions on the ground,” the statement said. “Employees and family members will depart on commercial flights. Department ordered departure due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.”

Ambassador Nicholas Burns, who only arrived in Beijing in March, and other US diplomats “have consistently raised our concerns with the officials of the People’s Republic of China regarding the safety and welfare of American citizens. We have asked the government of the PRC about the ordered departure.” has been informed in,” the US Mission China said.

A staff member walks inside a makeshift hospital used to isolate COVID patients on April 7, 2022 in Shanghai, China. Shanghai has entered its third week of a blanket lockdown.
STR/AFP via Getty Images

The State Department’s decision reflects the unpredictable and often broad nature of China’s policy towards Shanghai, rather than expressing concern over the health of US government employees during a surge of COVID cases in the coastal mega-city. This comes amid reports that residents are being moved to temporary quarantine centres, where living conditions are poor and the standard of care is low or nonexistent.

Shanghai has officially been under a citywide lockdown for 16 days, but by mid-March hundreds of thousands of residents were already confined to their homes, as officials balance public health regulations against the economic impact of the localized coronavirus. sought to control the outbreak. have. Three weeks into China’s strictest lockdown since the start of the pandemic, stories continue to emerge of desperate citizens who are either left without basic necessities or unable to access other health-related needs.

On Tuesday, China’s National Health Commission reported a total of 994 symptomatic and 22,384 asymptomatic new infections in Shanghai – patients who do not show symptoms of the virus are not considered confirmed cases. While the latest wave appeared to peak over the weekend, infections in the city still account for more than 93 percent of all cases in China.

Despite registering more than 150,000 cases in the past month and bringing the entire metropolis to a standstill, Shanghai has reported only one patient in critical condition, while the official death toll from the latest COVID outbreak remains at zero. newsweek was unable to independently verify the actual social media accounts of residents who are said to have died as a result of being denied critical care for other ailments.

On Monday, the State Department’s Level 3 advisory urged US citizens to reconsider travel to China because of “arbitrary enforcement of local laws and COVID-19-related restrictions.” Citizens in northeastern China were advised to avoid Hong Kong, Shanghai and Jilin provinces because of the “risk of separation of parents and children” as part of the country’s strict isolation rules.

In addition, a country summary from China reads: “The PRC government will arbitrarily and unfairly enforce local laws including prohibiting the detention and exit on US citizens and citizens of other countries without due process of law.” applies from.

“The PRC government uses arbitrary detention and exit restrictions:

  • forcing individuals to participate in the investigation of the PRC government,
  • Pressure on family members to return to PRC from abroad,
  • influencing PRC officials to resolve civil disputes in favor of PRC citizens, and
  • Taking advantage of bargaining on foreign governments”

The Chinese government defended its public health regulations and said it had filed a formal complaint over the weekend over the US decision to allow consular workers to be fired. An April 9 statement by China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the country’s epidemic control policies are “science-based and effective, and we are confident that Shanghai and other places in China will dominate the new wave of the epidemic.” “

“The relevant Chinese authorities and local governments have provided as much assistance and convenience to foreign diplomatic and consular personnel in China as possible under the policies,” he said. “We are strongly dissatisfied and strongly opposed to the US side’s baseless allegations against China’s pandemic response policies, and have filed solemn representation with the US side.”

This week, Shanghai’s health commission said it would partially ease lockdown restrictions in areas where no positive cases are detected for 14 consecutive days. Social media images showed some residents moving within their gated communities or along their borders, with health inspectors limiting freedom of movement to several hundred metres.

On Friday, the Chinese CDC’s chief epidemiologist Wu Xunyu told reporters he expected Shanghai to reach “social zero COVID” within two weeks — those already in centralized quarantine.

A trickle of new cases are slowly rising into double digits in other mega-cities along China’s east coast. Elementary and middle school classes in Guangzhou’s manufacturing center went online on Monday, lasting at least a week.

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