Shanghai’s vice mayor admitted to shortcomings in the city’s handling of its Covid-19 outbreak as a record 23,600 new cases were reported on Saturday.
Deputy Mayor Zong Ming was speaking after the US said it was allowing non-essential staff and their families to leave its consulate in the city.
Zong praised the support from the public and the work of front line workers despite public criticism of strict curbs, but said the handling of the virus needed to improve.
“We feel the same way about the problems everyone has raised and voiced,” he told a daily briefing. “A lot of our work has not been enough, and there’s still a big gap from everyone’s expectations. We will do our best to improve.”
Beijing intervened after the failure of Shanghai’s initial effort to isolate the virus by locking down in stages, insisting that the country stick to its zero-tolerance policy to prevent its medical system from being overwhelmed.
Elsewhere on Saturday, the southern megacity of Guangzhou – home to over 18 million people – said it would begin testing across its 11 districts after cases were reported on Friday.
In Beijing, the municipal government placed a high-risk area under lockdown after eight confirmed Covid cases in the last two weeks, Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control, told reporters on Saturday.
In Shanghai, where 26 million people are in lockdown, residents have continued to complain about food shortages due to a lack of couriers and uncertainty about when lockdown curbs may end.
On Saturday, video footage circulated on Chinese social media of people in hazmat suits scuffling with occupants of a Shanghai housing compound. Some residents shouted, “Send provisions.” Reuters was not able to independently verify the footage.
The government said it would conduct more testing on Saturday and would ease some movement curbs. Some residents of housing compounds with no recent cases said they had been notified by their neighbourhood committees that they could leave their homes to stroll within their compounds.
It did not signal a change of approach, however.
“The epidemic prevention and control is now at the most critical moment, and we cannot tolerate the slightest slack,” Zong said.
Gu Jun, director of the city’s commerce commission, acknowledged problems in distributing food supplies and said distribution centres, supermarkets, and pharmacies should continue operating online as much as possible.
E-commerce company JD.com said on Saturday it had obtained a licence to deliver goods into Shanghai and hosted a livestreaming sales session joined by more than 3.5 million people.
Offered products quickly sold out and the hosts pleaded for patience in response to commentators who complained that they were unable to purchase.
An official also addressed reports of patients recovering from Covid but not being allowed to return to their compounds by neighbourhood committees, emphasising that there was no evidence of any risk from those that had been discharged.
On Friday, the US State Department said in a travel advisory it was allowing non-emergency staff and their families to leave the Shanghai consulate due to the surge in cases and the impact of restrictions.
It advised US citizens to reconsider travel to China “due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws and Covid-19 restrictions.”
The ripple effects of the curbs in Shanghai and other areas are also being felt elsewhere.
Chinese electric vehicle maker Nio said on Saturday it has suspended production after Covid disrupted operations at its suppliers in Shanghai and the provinces of Jilin and Jiangsu.
Of Shanghai’s newly reported cases on Saturday, 1,015 were recorded as symptomatic, while 22,609 were asymptomatic.