China defended its measures to curb a COVID-19 outbreak and expressed displeasure with the US over what it calls a “groundless accusation” of Chinese pandemic policies, even as cases in Shanghai continued to spread despite an extensive lockdown.
Shanghai reported a record 24,943 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, the municipal government said.
That is more than five times the number seen on March 28, when 4,477 infections were reported as the city first imposed a lockdown. Total new infections in China on Saturday were at 26,355.
The US Department of State recommended US residents to not travel to China and avoid visiting COVID-19 hotspots, including Shanghai, due to what it calls an “arbitrary enforcement” of virus restrictions.
It also allowed non-emergency employees and their family members from the US consulate in Shanghai to leave, and notified Chinese officials of the voluntary departure decision while raising concerns about China’s response to the virus.
“The US announcement of authorizing the voluntary departure of US personnel and their family members at the US Consulate General in Shanghai is the US’ own decision,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) said in a statement.
“However, it should be pointed out that China’s anti-epidemic policies are science-based and effective, and we are fully confident that Shanghai and other places in China will prevail over the new wave of the epidemic,” the statement said.
China is struggling to stop the hyperinfectious Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 with lockdowns in several cities and repeated mass testing as it uses a zero-tolerance approach.
The strategy has become less effective in preventing domestic flareups due to the growing contagiousness of new variants, and more disruptive to economic activities and people’s lives.
“We are strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposed to the US side’s groundless accusation against China’s epidemic response policies, and have lodged solemn representations with the US side,” Zhao said.
China’s adherence to the zero-tolerance policy has left the country increasingly isolated in a world that has largely moved to reopening borders and living with the virus.
Shanghai’s infection count keeps climbing despite the city’s move to lock down its 25 million people.
Although there have been some adjustments to allow some movement for people, there is no clarity regarding when the restrictions might be lifted, despite increasing desperation among the population to access food and medical care.
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