How Shanghai is reeling under renewed Covid curbs
NEW DELHI: 20,000 Covid cases on Wednesday- a record since the pandemic broke out- has once again called into question China’s Covid control strategies.
China almost thought its policies of zero-tolerance and stringent lockdowns have paid off. But the Omicron variant has forced a rethink, although the majority of the new cases are asymptomatic.
Shanghai, the country’s commercial capital is reporting the majority of cases in the current wave. It is one of the 23 cities nationwide now under varying degrees of Covid-induced curbs.
And the impact is being felt everywhere- from travel, daily chores like stocking up provisions to economic activities.
Curbs return in Shanghai as cases surge
Shanghai has put strict movement curbs on its 26 million residents, barring them from even leaving their front doors other than for Covid tests.
State broadcaster CCTV reported that the city will launch a fresh round of tests on the entire population.
Quarantine facilities are bulging with people who test positive- even if they are asymptomatic- as city officials stick rigidly to virus protocols.
Measures include separating Covid-positive babies and children from parents who test negative, a policy that has anguished worried families.
City officials said on Wednesday that parents of some child patients with “special needs” would now be allowed to remain with their Covid-positive children.
Food supplies strained
Shanghai has been hit by food shortages as the citywide lockdown puts pressure on delivery staff amid surging cases.
Many Shanghai residents have been waking at dawn to work the phones in the hope of securing food supplies from over-subscribed delivery apps.
Some shoppers say the only way to get an order in is for everyone in the family to click “buy” on their phones at the same time, and even then, some families can’t secure a delivery for up to four days, several city residents said.
Staff at foreign missions too have not been spared.
Generous colleagues helped out seven US Marines at the US consulate in Shanghai who were running out of fresh food because of the strict lockdown, according to posts in private consulate message groups.
Doubtful efficacy of Chinese vaccines
China revealed last month that only around half of its population over 80 years old had been fully vaccinated.
Vaccine hesitancy is one of the reasons being blamed for the low coverage. It is proving difficult to motivate people as severity, fatalities (and also new cases, until just a short time back) continue to fall.
China uses the homegrown Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines, both of which are not nearly as efficacious as the Pfizer, Moderna vaccines used in the West, most experts feel.
Traditional medicines to tackle Covid
Shanghai is distributing to residents millions of boxes of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), such as herbal products and flu capsules, which it says can treat Covid-19 in the battle to control its largest virus outbreak.
China’s health authority has recommended several TCM drugs and ingredients, such as Lianhua Qingwen, for use by Covid-19 patients, although a lack of reliable clinical data limits their use outside the country.
Several residents said they had received free boxes of over-the-counter flu medicine Lianhua Qingwen from neighbourhood committees in recent weeks. Others who caught COVID said they got TCM medication to be dissolved in hot water. About 98% of Shanghai’s Covid-19 patients are taking TCM treatment.
Impact on economy
23 Chinese cities have implemented either full or partial lockdowns, which collectively are home to an estimated 193 million people and contribute to 22% of China’s GDP.
The outbreak has taken on an increasingly serious economic dimension, with China’s factory output falling to its lowest in two years in March
China’s top European business group warned on Wednesday that its “zero-COVID” strategy was harming the attractiveness of Shanghai as a financial hub.
Volkswagen Group China’s factories in Shanghai and Changchun remain shut on Wednesday and Thursday due to the COVID situation, a company spokesperson said on Wednesday. The company will continue to monitor the situation day by day, the spokesperson added.
(With inputs from agencies)