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Shanghai, a city of more than 26 million, reported about 26,000 new COVID-19 cases on Monday as China’s draconian “zero-COVID” strategy has failed to hold back the omicron BA.2 subvariant despite a weeks-long lockdown.
The surge in cases, which is the largest China has reported since the original outbreak in Wuhan in late 2019, comes as the U.S. State Department warned Americans against traveling to parts of China due to “arbitrary enforcement of local laws and COVID-19-related restrictions,” and even “the risk of parents and children being separated.”
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian defended the “zero-COVID” strategy on Monday, saying that the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party will help Shanghai “bring the epidemic under control.”
“China’s anti-epidemic policy is in keeping with its national realities, meets the need for combating COVID-19, works effectively and contributes significantly to the global fight against the pandemic,” Zhao said at a press conference on Monday.
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Shanghai has been in lockdown for about three weeks with residents forbidden from leaving their homes, but will start lifting restrictions for some areas under a tiered system this week.
China also closed off new arrivals to Guangzhou, a manufacturing hub of about 18 million northwest of Shanghai.
Former CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield suggested that what’s happening in China may actually be “highly underreported.”
“I think you’ve seen now that China’s zero tolerance for COVID didn’t seem to work with their huge outbreaks in Hong Kong and now Shanghai,” Dr. Redfield told “America’s Newsroom” on Monday. “I think, and related to deaths and infection, I just think it’s very difficult to know what accurate reporting we’re seeing.”
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Residents throughout Shanghai have taken to the social media app Weibo to appeal for food amid a lack of takeout services and a lack of fresh supplies, Radio Free Asia reports.
People have also been denied care for non-coronavirus related needs, such as a Shanghai nurse who died from asthma after she was turned away from an emergency room and a 77-year-old man with kidney disease who died after being denied dialysis treatment, according to Human Rights Watch.
A recent video purporting to show Shanghai residents begging for food from their locked down apartments went viral.
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“Denying people’s human rights in the name of addressing the new spike in Covid cases is counterproductive,” Human Rights Watch senior China researcher Yaqiu Wang said last week. “The authorities should listen to people’s pleas and provide appropriate health care for all those in need.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.