As Covid cases rise in China, US orders non-essential staff to leave Shanghai

The United States has ordered all non-essential employees of its Shanghai consulate to leave China as the government enforces strict containment measures to contain Covid-19. The US State Department said the order is an upgrade from the “authorized” departure issued last week which made the decision voluntary.

In its Monday evening announcement, the department said: “Our change in posture reflects our assessment that it is best for our employees and their families to be reduced in number and for our operations to be scaled back as we face the changing circumstances on the ground.

The department also issued a series of advisories for Americans in Shanghai, including that they ensure they have “sufficient supplies of money, medicine, food and other necessities for your family in the event of restrictions or sudden quarantines”.

China has imposed a “Zero Covid policy”, aimed at eliminating infections through rigid confinements, mass testing and travel restrictions. Thousands of people have been confined to their homes for three weeks in Shanghai. Many describe an increasingly desperate situation, with families unable to leave their homes or to stock up on food and basic necessities, while those who tested positive for the virus were forced to go to centers quarantine where conditions were sometimes described as overcrowded and unsanitary.

China’s largest city reported more than 23,000 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday. Locals have begun to chafe at the lockdown restrictions, with many taking to social media to express their anger over food shortages and tough controls – including the recent killing of a pet corgi by a health worker.

An unpopular policy of separating infected children from virus-free parents – now softened – also sparked a rare outburst of public anger last week.

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Michelle J. Kelley