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Shanghai official COVID death toll rises to 25

SHANGHAI (AFP) – Shanghai logged eight official Covid-19 deaths yesterday, reporting a mounting death toll even as daily cases appear to be tapering off and some residents are finally free to venture outside under an easing lockdown.

China’s largest city and commercial engine is inching towards reopening after weeks-long restrictions kept most of its 25 million people confined to their homes.

Faced with the country’s worst virus outbreak in two years, Shanghai doubled down on the Communist Party’s unrelenting zero-COVID approach, with a heavy toll inflicted on business and morale.

The surge, driven by the fast-spreading Omicron variant, is the country’s worst outbreak in two years and has challenged Beijing’s inflexible, sequestering approach to a virus much of the world is learning to live alongside.

As proof that its strategy works, China has touted a low official fatality rate from the virus – even as sceptics question whether those figures reflect the full toll.

Residents and community workers wait with supplies at the entrance to a residential district still under lockdown in Shanghai. PHOTO: AP

While clocking upwards of 400,000 infections since March, Shanghai has recorded just 25 deaths, with the first from this outbreak reported on Monday.

Authorities have said the deaths have been elderly patients with underlying conditions, who mostly had not received coronavirus vaccines.

Among the eight reported yesterday, the average age was 77.5, city authorities said, adding that the patients had suffered from pre-existing health issues such as malignant tumours and high blood pressure. The local government said the cause of death was “underlying disease”.

Shanghai reported more than 18,000 new and mostly asymptomatic coronavirus cases yesterday, the second day in a row with infections below the 20,000 mark.

With the outbreak appearing to have crested, the megacity is tentatively allowing life to resume, with Tesla and Volkswagen among 666 companies flagged for restarting production this week.

A total of about 12 million people previously barred from leaving their homes have in the past few days been permitted outdoors.

However, many were disappointed to find their movements still curtailed despite being released from the strictest form of lockdown, in which residents were barred from leaving their apartments.

Throughout Shanghai’s lockdown, complaints have flooded social media platform Weibo, providing a rare glimpse of discontent usually wiped away by censorship.

While officials announced the lifting of some curbs, some residents grumbled online about discrepancies between policy and enforcement as construction workers came to reinforce barriers around their apartment buildings.