China’s financial hub of Shanghai says it will lock down the city in two stages to carry out COVID-19 testing over a nine-day period, after it reported a new daily record for asymptomatic infections.
Authorities said they would divide Shanghai into two for the exercise, using the Huangpu River that passes through the city as a guide.
Districts to the east of the river, and some to its west, will be locked down and tested between March 28 and April 1.
The remaining areas will be locked down and tested between April 1-5.
Public transport, including ride-hailing services, in these areas will be suspended when they are locked down, the city government said on its official WeChat account. Unapproved vehicles will be banned from the roads.
It also said that all businesses and factories will suspend manufacturing or work remotely during the lockdown, apart from those involved in offering public services or supplying food.
“The public is asked to support, understand and co-operate with the city’s epidemic prevention and control work, and participate in nucleic acid testing in an orderly manner,” the government said.
Shanghai has battled a COVID-19 surge for nearly a month. On Saturday, it reported its highest daily number of cases since the initial outbreak in China receded.
The city had 2631 asymptomatic cases, which accounted for nearly 60 per cent of China’s total asymptomatic cases that day, plus 47 cases with symptoms.
While the number of cases in Shanghai remains modest by global standards, the city of 26 million people has become a testing ground for China’s “zero-COVID” strategy as it tries to bring the highly infectious Omicron variant under control.
Shanghai authorities have previously resisted a broad lockdown of the city to avoid destabilising its economy. They have instead opted for a more bespoke “slicing and gridding” approach, which involves screening neighbourhoods one by one.
The city houses factories belonging to the likes of Tesla, Volkswagen and the country’s largest chipmaker SMIC, as well as the mainland China headquarters of many international companies.
The Shanghai Stock Exchange said on Sunday it would work to keep capital markets operating during the “special” virus control period.
The bourse will continue to vet share sale plans by companies seeking to list on the tech-focused STAR Market, strengthen online communications with issuers and underwriters, and offer free services for virtual debut ceremonies, it said.
The exchange will also allow listed companies to delay filings of quarterly or annual reports if they are affected by the pandemic restrictions, and will fast-track bond issuance approvals for virus-hit companies, it added.
More than 14 million Shanghai residents have taken antigen tests, the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission said on Sunday.
But some residents have grumbled about seemingly endless cycles of testing and the piecemeal approach to ending transmission chains, with some saying the cost of zero-COVID-19 had become too high.
Frustrations have also been felt elsewhere in China.
Earlier this month, in footage shared on social media, a crowd of people in the north-eastern city of Shenyang banged against the windows of a clothing market as they shouted in frustration at yet another round of COVID-19 tests.
China reported a total of 4448 asymptomatic infections on March 26, up from 4430 a day earlier, including 1007 cases in the north-eastern province of Jilin, currently under lockdown.
The country had 1254 confirmed cases with symptoms, down from 1335 a day earlier.
Of the latest cases, 1217 were locally transmitted versus 1280 a day earlier.
There were no deaths reported on March 26, leaving the death toll at 4638.
As of March 26, mainland China had confirmed 143,240 cases of COVID-19.