Shanghai fears new lockdown as millions test for Covid amid sweltering heat – Boston News, Weather, Sports

(CNN) – Millions of Shanghai residents braved the sweltering heat on Tuesday to wait in line for mandatory Covid tests, as rising case numbers and the emergence of a highly infectious omicron subvariant fueled new fears of a return to the mass lockdown.

Shanghai authorities have ordered the majority of the city’s 16 districts to undergo two rounds of testing Tuesday through Thursday after a case of the new BA.5.2.1 subvariant was detected in the municipality on July 8.

The highly transmissible BA.5 variant is spreading rapidly worldwide and is considered a major threat by the authorities in Germany China – the last major country to stick to a stringent zero-Covid strategy.

New Omicron subvariants have been reported in several Chinese cities, including the capital Beijing, the northeastern port city of Dalian, and the central city of Xi’an, which has been closed for seven days due to the outbreak.

The rising cases – and the restrictions that come with them – are coming A scorching heat wave sweeps across the country. In Shanghai, authorities issued the highest red alert on Sunday as temperatures hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

The sweltering heat has made mass testing all the more agonizing for local residents – some of whom have to queue for hours – and for Covid workers, who are covered head-to-toe in airtight PPE gear.

Photos of workers in hazmat suits lying on blocks of ice went viral on Chinese social media, while health experts warned of heat stroke among Covid workers who spend long hours outdoors in thick protective gear.

Shanghai saw a spike in infections earlier this month due to an outbreak linked to a karaoke bar. More than 400 cases have been reported in the last 10 days.

The growing outbreak has stoked fears the commercial hub is slipping back into a mass lockdown just weeks after its residents were released from two months of grueling house arrest.

The 25 million city ended its citywide lockdown In early June, but has continued to impose strict restrictions, including relentless testing and snap lockdowns on compounds where Covid cases have been found.

As of Tuesday, 240 neighborhoods across Shanghai have been marked as medium- or high-risk areas and placed under lockdown.

Officials in Shanghai have repeatedly denied that a citywide lockdown is imminent, but that hasn’t convinced residents, who noted that authorities had made similar claims in March in the run-up to the previous lockdown.

On Monday, two neighborhood committees in Shanghai said residents should “prepare food and medicine that can last 14 days at home, as a precaution.”

After the announcements were widely circulated online, they sparked panic among local residents, many of whom are marked by their long isolation in April and May – causing widespread food shortages and blocking access to medical care.

In response to the uproar, a staffer with the state’s Health Times neighborhood committee said the proposal should prepare residents for the growing outbreak, since close contacts — as well as secondary contacts — of an infected case can also lead to neighborhood lockdowns.

“Well, let’s spend our whole lives in the fear of food shortages and the shadow of hoarding daily necessities,” read a comment on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform.

“It’s been over three years, when will it be over? How many three years does a person have in their life? Enough is enough!” said another.

(Copyright (c) 2022 CNN. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed.)

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Nate Jones

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