In Shanghai, lockdown blues give way to COVID testing issues

SHANGHAI, June 2 (Reuters) – As a two-month COVID lockdown nears its end in Shanghai, residents’ relief is quickly giving way to frustration at now having to queue for hours for virus tests and the negative results they must show to be allowed to enter public spaces.

On Wednesday, China’s business and commercial center lifted lockdowns for most of its 25 million people. But citizens must have proof that they have taken a COVID test in the past 72 hours to enter areas like malls and offices – or even to use subways and buses.

Authorities have built 15,000 testing sites and trained thousands of workers in throat swabs. Still, long queues meandering amid heat of up to 31 degrees Celsius at the start of summer became commonplace on Wednesday and Thursday, with some people saying they waited in line for two hours.

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One person posted a picture on social media of a sign at a stand warning of a 4.5 hour wait. The hashtag “Shanghai PCR testing” garnered 190 million views on Weibo on Thursday.

“I left the nightmare of confinement to enter the nightmare of the 72-hour PCR tests,” said a resident of Shanghai, refusing to give her name.

“It’s embarrassing, but we have no choice,” said another, named Xu Xiaojun. “It’s for the good of all.”

Other Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shenzhen, have imposed similar requirements as part of a national zero COVID policy that aims to cut off any chain of infection.

Despite deep dissatisfaction with Shanghai’s tough restrictions – some 2.5 million people in the city are still under lockdown – China has pledged to stick to its approach. He says the zero-COVID policy is needed to save lives and prevent its health system from being overwhelmed, even as much of the world tries to get back to normal despite ongoing infections.

That increasingly means COVID testing is becoming a feature of everyday life: China’s goal is to have testing sites within a 15-minute walk for everyone in major cities. Read more

Still, many Shanghai residents remain nervous about the possibility of returning under lockdown.

Videos shared on social media on Thursday showed people fleeing the luxury International Finance Center (IFC) shopping mall in the Lujiazui financial district after stopping people from entering or leaving – a common practice at venues when a positive COVID test result is found.

The IFC mall, run by Sun Hung Kai Properties (0016.HK), later posted a notice saying it had reopened at 12:30 p.m. local time after carrying out full disinfection without confirming whether there had been a test. COVID positive on site. The mall did not respond to calls seeking additional comment.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily also published a commentary on Thursday in which it said the zero-COVID policy was the most appropriate for China’s situation. It also featured a front-page story describing how Shanghai was getting back to normal.

“Great progressive results have been achieved in the defense of Shanghai.”

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Reporting by Brenda Goh, Andrew Galbraith, Winni Zhou, Zhang Yan and Engen Tham in Shanghai and Sophie Yu in Beijing; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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