Shanghai will close the city in two phases to conduct mass testing on COVID-19 while authorities fight to stop the outbreak in China’s financial center and beyond.
At 5 a.m. Monday, a city of 25 million people blocked areas east of the Huangpu River for four days, which includes a financial district and industrial parks. The blockade is then moved to the other half of the city, in the west, for another four days, a local government statement said Sunday.
Residents will be forbidden to leave their homes, public transport and motor transport services will be suspended. Private cars will not be allowed on the roads unnecessarily. Manufactured at Shanghai’s Tesla Inc. will be suspended because of curbs, people familiar with the move told Bloomberg News.
The first gigafactory outside Tesla’s home country released half of the carmaker’s cars last year and was forced to suspend production for two days earlier this month. At the time, the company said it was making “every effort” to ensure continued production at the plant while “actively cooperating with the government’s order for Covid tests and appropriate pandemic prevention measures.”
The Shanghai plant is crucial for Tesla, given that China is the second largest market for the company, and the plant produces cars for export to Europe and other Asian countries. Earlier this month, the China Passenger Car Association said that in February alone, Tesla had delivered 56,515 vehicles from the plant – 23,200 for the domestic market and 33,315 for export.
Extensive restrictions come at a time when China is experiencing the worst Covid outbreak since the initial outbreak in Wuhan: 5,550 locally acquired cases were reported across the country on Saturday. Earlier this month, authorities closed the Shenzhen Technical Center in the south, while Jilin, which borders Russia more than 2,000 miles to the north, closed the capital on March 11, and the entire province was closed a few days later. The region, the center of the automotive industry, remains closed.
Infections in Shanghai, home to the Chinese headquarters of many international companies and the country’s largest port, have increased in recent days, despite repeated and expanded testing, a key tool in China’s intensive arsenal of Covid Zero. The financial center reported 2,676 new infections on Saturday, up 18 percent from the day before, overtaking Jilin as Covid’s biggest hotspot.
The Shanghai Stock Exchange will move many services online and has extended the window for publishing company statements until 11pm local time. Firms will also be able to apply for a deferral of publication of their earnings for the entire year.
The port of Shanghai, the largest in the world, will operate during the blockade, according to the Securities Times.
Blockades in Shenzhen, and now in Shanghai, China’s two most economically important cities, show a growing number – and challenges – of maintaining a zero-tolerance approach to the virus amid more portable options. While most countries have started living next to Covid, taking it as endemic, China maintains its strategy of closed borders, mandatory quarantine and mass testing, even as it gets harder every day.
For Shanghai, recent restrictions mark a departure from the city’s previous approach, which was more focused when it came to curbs and testing. Officials opposed the full-scale closure to avoid business disruptions, only to see that the highly contagious version of Omicron continues to spread.
As virus cases began to rise this month, Shanghai responded by closing schools and suspending all inter-provincial bus services. Over the past few days, an increasing number of residential towers in the city have been periodically closed due to suspicious incidents.
In a statement issued Sunday night, the Shanghai government said it would provide basic supplies such as electricity, fuel, and food during the blockade.
However, an unexpected message immediately caused a stir for groceries as residents sought to stock up on essentials ahead of the first closing, which is set to begin at 5am local time on Monday.
Over the past week, many Shanghai residents have amassed supplies due to uncertainty over the closure of construction – the city’s strategy so far – and a lack of delivery drivers. Shanghai police detained two men last week on suspicion of spreading rumors that the entire city is in complete closure.
Officials stressed that the needs of citizens in emergency medical care will be guaranteed during the closure.
The nurse died of asthma on Wednesday night after she was turned away from Shanghai East Hospital when the emergency department was closed for disinfection under Covid control rules. She later died at another hospital, according to a medical center in the Pudong city district.
Earlier this year, there were similar scenes when the central city of Xi’an, home to famous terracotta warriors, was closed to contain the outbreak. Although the incidence rate is not at all close to that in the West and even in other parts of Asia, China’s harsh response has been devastating, prompting President Xi Jinping to urge officials to avoid affecting the economy while continuing to stifle Covid .
Together with Tesla, Toyota Motor Corp. and the Volkswagen Group in Jilin Province were closed for several weeks due to closures there. In Shanghai, traders in the financial markets slept in their offices to avoid blockages that would prevent them from entering the trading floor.