Shock U-turn as millions plunged back into Covid lockdown

The respite for millions of residents in Shanghai who've endured a prolonged and draconian Covid-19 lockdown appears to be short-lived as a fresh outbreak threatened to plunge the city back into isolation.

Parts of China's largest economic hub imposed new lockdown restrictions and the city announced a round of mass testing for millions of residents as cases flared again.

China's unrelenting Covid-zero strategy has triggered criticism from Western nations including leading experts, yet Beijing has branded outside commentary as an attempt to smear China and politicise the pandemic.

Residents wearing protective masks talk to security personnel and workers in protective suits in a fenced up area where restrictions to curb the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are in place, in Shanghai, China June 6, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song
Discontent from residents is growing. Source: Reuters

Resistance from fatigued residents festered at the height of the last lockdown, and a return to restrictions as the rest of the world pushes on with living with the virus could bring an unprecedented level of criticism from China's own residents.

It's population of 26 million is on edge as new cases flare up after the city's grinding two-month lockdown ended, with officials on Thursday tracing three infections to the Red Rose, a popular beauty salon in the city centre that reopened when the city did on June 1.

The shop had served 502 customers from 15 of Shanghai's 16 districts in the past eight days, a local media outlet, The Paper, reported.

"When is this ever going to end?," a user of the Twitter-like Weibo commented on the Red Rose, which is in the trendy former French Concession area of the Xuhui district.

TOPSHOT - Workers who handle disinfectant look on next to a residential area under a Covid-19 lockdown in the Huangpu district of Shanghai on June 4, 2022. (Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP) (Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images)
Pandemic workers face further gruelling efforts to suppress the virus. Source: Getty

"I just want to have a normal life."

Authorities said a preliminary investigation found that some of the salon's 16 employees did not undergo daily Covid testing as required, and that 90,000 people linked to Red Rose staff or customers had been tested.

Shanghai's Minhang district, roughly 2 million residents, said it will conduct nucleic acid tests for the entire population on Saturday and ordered residents to stay home in the meantime. Six other Shanghai districts, including some of its largest, also announced a round of mass testing for the weekend.

While China's infection rate is low by global standards, President Xi Jinping has doubled down on a zero-Covid policy that authorities say is needed to protect the elderly and the country's medical system.

Experts believe the Chinese government fear the quality of their vaccines are not on a par with Western counterparts.

China reported 240 new coronavirus cases on June 8, of which 70 were symptomatic and 170 were asymptomatic, the National Health Commission said on Thursday.

With Reuters

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