Shanghai’s daily COVID caseload at nearly 1,000, but containment in sight

SHANGHAI (Reuters) -New daily COVID-19 cases in the Chinese commercial hub of Shanghai remained close to 1,000 on Thursday as authorities scrambled to identify and isolate asymptomatic infections, though a leading expert said the outbreak was being contained.

Though the number of cases in Shanghai remains small by global standards, the densely populated city has become a testing ground for China’s “zero-COVID” strategy as it tries to bring the highly infectious Omicron variant under control.

In a meeting on Wednesday, Shanghai’s Communist Party leaders emphasised the need to continue testing, implementing “closed loops” and cutting off transmission chains in order to bring new infections to zero as soon as possible.

The city also said more districts would be locked down for mass testing from Thursday to Friday, including the major financial district of Lujiazui, with residents told not to leave home unless strictly necessary.

Zhang Wenhong, who leads a team of experts on COVID treatment in Shanghai, said on Thursday that the city was struggling to balance its COVID response with the need to maintain normal economic activities.

But while asymptomatic cases were rising “exponentially” at first, the results of mass testing suggest the outbreak was now being effectively contained, he said on his Weibo (NASDAQ:WB) microblog, though there was still no “inflection point”.

Some of the failings that have emerged in recent days, including difficult and lengthy lockdown conditions as well as restricted access to hospitals, needed to be resolved one by one, Zhang said.

“Otherwise, the significance of the successful fight against the epidemic will be greatly reduced,” he said, adding that in future, maintaining normal life in the city should be as big a priority as “dynamic clearance”.

Shanghai recorded four new locally transmitted symptomatic cases on March 23 and another 979 asymptomatic infections, according to data from the National Health Commission.

There were 2,054 new confirmed coronavirus cases reported for the whole of China on the same day, down from 2,667 a day earlier.

Of the new cases, 2,010 were locally transmitted, down from 2,591 a day earlier, with the majority in the northeastern province of Jilin.

New asymptomatic cases, which are compiled separately, stood at 2,829, up from 2,469 a day earlier.

As of March 23, mainland China had confirmed 139,285 cases. There were no new deaths, leaving the death toll unchanged from a day earlier at 4,638.

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