China sent the military and thousands of medical workers into Shanghai to carry out Covid tests on all of its 26 million residents on Monday.
Some residents were asked to wake up before dawn for testing at their housing compounds — with many queuing up in nightwear.
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) on Sunday sent more than 2,000 medical personnel recruited from across China's army, navy and joint logistics support forces to Shanghai, an armed forces newspaper reported.
Multiple provinces such Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Beijing have sent healthcare workers to Shanghai, media reports said, with some estimates putting the total number at more than 10,000.
It is China's largest public health response since it tackled the initial Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus was first discovered in early 2020. The State Council said the PLA sent more than 4,000 medical personnel to the province of Hubei, where Wuhan is, back then.
Shanghai, which began a two-stage lockdown last Monday that has been expanded to confine practically all residents to their homes, reported 8,581 asymptomatic Covid cases and 425 symptomatic Covid cases for April 3. It also asked residents to self-test using antigen tests on Sunday.
While the outbreak is small by global standards, the city has emerged as a test of China's elimination strategy based on testing, tracing and quarantining all positive cases and their close contacts.
The strategy has shown signs of strain, with residents complaining of crowded and unsanitary central quarantine centres, as well as difficulties in securing food supplies and essential medical help.
Still, Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged the country to curb the momentum of the outbreak as soon as possible while sticking to the “dynamic-clearance” policy.
On Saturday, Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan, who was sent to Shanghai by the central government, urged the city to “make resolute and swift moves” to curb the pandemic.