2021-11-26 09:24:27

Just as China’s COVID-19 outbreak from mid-October was trailing off, new infections in Shanghai have delayed the goal of achieving zero cases — at least for now.

Health authorities in the country’s financial hub announced Thursday that the city had logged three local infections, the first since late August, leading to mass testing of people deemed close contacts and shutting of multiple hospitals. As of Friday afternoon, nine of Shanghai’s top hospitals — including Ruijin and Zhongshan — had suspended outpatient and emergency services for virus tracing purposes.

Meanwhile, the neighboring city of Suzhou in Jiangsu province is on high alert after officials in Shanghai revealed that the trio had traveled to the water town before testing positive. Several scenic spots in Suzhou — including museums and its famous Zijin Nunnery — where the three tourists visited have now closed, while Shanghai paused interprovincial tourism groups to and from the city.

“(Infections) in the fall and winter will probably be a normal scene, and we may encounter it again in the future,” Zhang Wenhong, a renowned infectious diseases doctor and the leading force behind Shanghai’s COVID-19 response, said at a press conference Thursday. He added that citizens should take a nucleic acid test “as soon as” they show flu-like symptoms.

The three individuals who tested positive in Shanghai were fully vaccinated, authorities said. The three residential complexes where they had stayed have been designated “medium-risk areas” with strict quarantine and virus testing efforts put in place.

In nearby Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, the cities of Xuzhou and Hangzhou have reported one and two asymptomatic infections, respectively, that were linked to the cases in Shanghai — however, China doesn’t include such cases in its daily COVID-19 tally.

Authorities in Xuzhou have barred residents from leaving the city without a negative nucleic acid test, while the health codes of 1,565 locals who had “crossed paths” with the single asymptomatic individual have turned from green to yellow.

In Hangzhou, authorities said they’d temporarily barred commuters with yellow codes from taking public transport, urging them to be aware of their health status. Many anxious residents said on social media that they’ve been frantically checking their color codes, which acts like a pass to enter public venues and restaurants.

China’s daily infections Friday included four confirmed local COVID-19 cases — three in Shanghai and one in the city of Dalian in the northeastern Liaoning province. While the flare-up that started last month has largely been contained, some experts say they “wouldn’t expect” zero outbreaks, a strategy which the government has firmly upheld.

The country has largely been able to achieve this goal through mass testing, snap lockdowns, and a widespread vaccination drive that has now covered over 76% of its 1.4 billion people.

Contributions: Xu Jialu; editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: A doctor stands at the entrance of Zhongshan Hospital in Shanghai, Nov. 26, 2021. IC)