US State Department orders non-essential personnel following COVID-19 outbreak in China

The State Department said its diplomats raised “concerns about the safety and well-being of American citizens with officials in the People’s Republic of China.”

China’s COVID-19 lockdown: AFP

Shanghai: The United States has ordered all non-essential employees of its Shanghai consulate to leave due to safety concerns, an embassy spokesperson said in a statement on Tuesday, as the Chinese city faces an increase in COVID-19 cases and a severe lockdown.

The U.S. State Department “ordered the departure due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak” and U.S. diplomats raised “concerns about the safety and well-being of U.S. citizens with officials in the People’s Republic of China,” the spokesperson said in the statement.

China has stuck to a “zero COVID” policy, aiming to eliminate infections through rigid lockdowns, mass testing and travel restrictions.

Shanghai has been under some of the toughest measures since the virus emerged in Wuhan in 2019, with a strict lockdown leaving many struggling to get enough food and thousands sent to quarantine centres.

On Tuesday, the megacity reported more than 23,000 new COVID infections, with most of its 25 million residents still under strict lockdown.

Last week, the US Embassy said it would allow non-essential employees to leave its consulate in Shanghai due to the surge in cases, warning Chinese citizens they could face “arbitrary enforcement “virus control measures.

The State Department is now ordering employees to leave because “it is best that our employees and their families be reduced in number and that our operations be reduced as we deal with changing circumstances on the ground,” a the spokesperson said in the statement. .

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Michelle J. Kelley