Xi Jinping backs ‘zero COVID’ as Shanghai cases hit record high

Shanghai is battling China's worst COVID-19 outbreak since the virus first emerged in Wuhan in late 2019

Updated - April 14, 2022 08:17 pm IST

Published - April 14, 2022 02:56 pm IST - SHANGHAI

Residents get tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a makeshift nucleic acid testing site inside a residential compound under lockdown, in Shanghai on April 14, 2022.

Residents get tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a makeshift nucleic acid testing site inside a residential compound under lockdown, in Shanghai on April 14, 2022. | Photo Credit: Reuters

The COVID-19 cases in Shanghai on Thursday reached a record high of more than 27,000 despite more than two weeks of a stringent lockdown that still remains in place.

Most of the 26 million residents in China’s financial centre still remain confined in their apartments, with the harsh measures in recent days angering many. Residents have complained of food shortages, as they are not allowed to leave their homes even as the authorities were struggling to supply millions of residents.

The city authorities on Thursday said there were only nine severe cases, most of which were linked to pre-existing health conditions, leading some on social media to question the need for a stringent lockdown more than two years into the pandemic and with a large share of the city’s population vaccinated.

Despite the growing criticism, President Xi Jinping on Thursday reiterated his backing for his government’s “zero COVID” approach. China is the only country following an approach of mass lockdowns and testing to eliminate cases more than two years into the pandemic, and is also still isolated from the rest of the world with tight travel restrictions.

“Prevention and control work cannot be relaxed,” Mr. Xi was quoted as saying by the official media during a visit to the southern island province of Hainan, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

“Virus control measures must be strictly implemented”, he said, adding that “the antivirus campaign must minimise economic and social impact.” 

That hasn’t, however, been the case in Shanghai with most of the city confined to their homes and persisting concerns over acute food shortages as well as access to medicines for those suffering from ailments.

The economy has also been impacted, with the government keeping Shanghai’s port open but the strict COVID-19 measures leading most factories to cut production.

The official media, in the past week, has published a number of commentaries defending the “zero COVID” approach, warning that relaxing it would lead to thousands of deaths among the elderly and overwhelm China’s healthcare system.  

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