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Shanghai officials sacked over COVID response

BEIJING (AP) – Three local officials in Shanghai have been sacked over a slack response to the COVID-19 outbreak in China’s largest city, where residents are complaining of harsh lockdown conditions leading to shortages of food and basic necessities.

An official notice yesterday gave no details of the allegations against the three officials, but said their failure to fulfil their duties in epidemic prevention and control had allowed the virus to spread, leading to a “serious impact” on efforts to control the outbreak.

Shanghai announced more than 21,000 new local cases yesterday, of which only 824 had symptoms. Total cases in the outbreak that began last month in Shanghai have soared past the 100,000 mark, making it one of China’s most serious since the virus was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019. No additional deaths have been reported in the outbreak blamed on the hugely infectious but relatively less lethal Omicron subvariant BA.2.

China’s vaccination rate is around 90 per cent, but considerably lower among the elderly.

Shanghai has placed all 26 million residents under lockdown and implemented mass testing, while requiring anyone with a positive result to be held in an isolation centre, some of which have been newly created from converted gymnasiums and exhibition halls. Some residents have received government food packages containing meat and vegetables. Many, however, are struggling to obtain rice and other basics, with online vendors sold out and delivery services unable to keep up with demand.

With no word on when the lockdown will be lifted, anxiety is rising, along with frustration over the city’s apparent lack of preparation for an extended lockdown.

Visitors enjoy cherry blossoms at the Yuyuantan Park during a spring festival in Beijing. PHOTO: AP