Tokyo – The US State Department has ordered all non-emergency consular personnel to leaveShanghai’s largest city, as the world’s trading hub enters its third week of lockdown in response to an increase in case. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said it was ordering the departure due to the outbreak in Shanghai and that U.S. diplomats had expressed “concerns for the safety and well-being of U.S. citizens” in the city.
“It is best that our employees and their families be reduced in number and that our operations be reduced as we deal with changing circumstances on the ground,” said an embassy statement, according to The Associated. Press.
Shanghai officials reported more than 23,000 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday. The vast majority of them are asymptomatic, but despite this, and some limited easing of restrictions, the government has largely adhered to its strict lockdown and isolation measures – even as itand a major impact on businesses.
China’s central government has bristled at criticism of its tactics from the United States and Europe, insisting this weekend that its draconian “zero-COVID” policy was “effective and scientific”.
Analysts at global financial services firm Nomura estimated that up to 45 cities in China were implementing full or partial lockdowns on Tuesday, affecting more than a quarter of the country’s total population, according to Reuters news agency. .
As CBS News Senior Foreign Correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports, Shanghai is under the world’s largest COVID lockdown. For more than two weeks, the megalopolis of more than 25 million inhabitants has been strangely calm.
The only turmoil is in the food depots, where there is a daily race to deliver groceries to millions of people who have not been allowed to shop.
Amid an outcry from residents, city officials on Tuesday allowed residents of some COVID-free neighborhoods to leave their homes, and officials said some pharmacies and grocery stores would also reopen.
Local media said less than 7 million Shanghai residents were being freed, however, and details of who would be freed and when remained unclear.
American Billy Stockton, who lives and works in Shanghai, is one of millions of people confined to their apartments since the end of March.
“Nobody knows where to find stuff,” he told Palmer. “Nobody knows where to get medical help… and that creates panic, fear and, quite simply, instability.”
There have been angry protests – rare anywhere in China – in areas where food has run out. Videos posted to social media show crowds of frustrated locals shouting “we are starving!”
Last week, a man expressed his fury in a video recorded on his phone and then posted online.
“What am I supposed to buy,” he shouted. “What am I eating? You are driving us to death!”
Small groups of residents have now been allowed out for the past two weeks, but only briefly, for COVID testing. Anyone who tests positive has no choice: as one patient showed on TikTok, he had to board a special bus and then check into a mass isolation center run by the government.
Authorities are clearly ready to quarantine an onslaught of new cases, even if they release old ones who have now tested negative.
But for the recent release, it’s a false sense of freedom. The roughly 6,000 people who were released from isolation centers on Monday have returned straight to home isolation.
Looking out of Billy Stockton’s window, however, there was no sign of that. He was busy taking stock of his dwindling food supply.
“I have sausage and then they provided a bag of rice yesterday, such simple stuff like that,” he said of his meal plan.
“It’s like a movie,” he told Palmer, saying he felt like he was trapped in a nightmare. “I just can’t believe I’m in this. It’s beyond surreal. You kind of have to get out of it to get out of it.”
Like millions of other Shanghai residents, Stockton has no choice but to get by.
This could take another few weeks, however, and the question is whether there will be any lasting fallout among Shanghai’s massive population, who have rarely, if ever, felt so mistreated and abused by their government.