Shanghai looks to ease Covid restrictions despite rising cases

Residents of the financial hub have struggled under more than three weeks of lockdown to contain China's biggest outbreak so far

Patients who recovered from Covid-19 leave an exhibition in Shanghai that was converted into a hospital to help deal with China's biggest coronavirus outbreak. Xinhua via AP

China's financial centre of Shanghai reported more than 25,000 new coronavirus infections on Monday as authorities began to plan an exit from a lockdown of its 25 million residents.

Some areas are struggling to find food and medicine after more than three weeks locked down in an effort to contain China's biggest Covid-19 outbreak since the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus was first discovered in central Wuhan in late 2019.

As it tries to get parts of the city moving again, the government has divided residential units into three categories.

These consist of 7,624 areas that are still sealed off; 2,460 that are subject to "controls" after a week of no new infections; and 7,565 "prevention areas" that have been opened up after two weeks of no positive cases.

City government official Gu Honghui said Shanghai would make "dynamic" adjustments to the residential classification system and promised greater efforts to minimise the impact of restrictions on residents of China's most populous city.

"We also hope all citizens and friends will continue to support and co-operate with the city's epidemic prevention and control work," Mr Gu told a news briefing.

Those living in "prevention areas" can now move around their neighbourhoods, but must observe social distancing and could be sealed off again if there are new infections, he said.

However, a "dynamic clearance" policy remains Shanghai's "best option", said Liang Wannian, the head of the National Health Commission's working group on Covid-19.

He said it was misleading to characterise infections by the currently dominant Omicron variant of the coronavirus as a "big flu", and that lowering China's guard would expose its enormous elderly population to risk, especially as the virus mutates.

"If we lie flat, the epidemic would just be a disaster for these kinds of vulnerable people," the People's Daily newspaper of the ruling Communist Party quoted Mr Liang as saying on a visit to Shanghai.

The eastern city faces pressure not only to curb local transmissions but halt the spread to other regions, he added.

Shanghai recorded 25,173 new asymptomatic infections on Sunday, up from 23,937 the previous day, although symptomatic cases edged down to 914 from 1,006.

Updated: April 11, 2022, 5:45 AM