Shanghai faces unexpected round of COVID testing for most residents

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China’s commercial hub of Shanghai faces an unexpected round of mass COVID-19 testing for most residents this weekend – just 10 days after a city-wide lockdown was lifted – unsettling residents and raising concerns about the impact on business.

Racing to stop a wider outbreak after discovering a few cases in the community, authorities have ordered PCR testing for all residents in 14 of Shanghai’s 16 districts over the weekend.

Some districts said residents would not be allowed to leave their homes while the testing was carried out. A notice issued described the stay home requirement as ‘closed management’ of the community being sampled.

The reactions of people on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform were a mixture of surprise and concern, with some asking how their plans for the weekend, such as moving house or seeing a doctor, would be affected. Many expressed fear they could be locked down again.

The move comes on top of already onerous testing requirements that Shanghai introduced for its 25 million residents after easing a city-wide lockdown on June 1.

Residents need to prove that they have been tested within the last 72 hours to enter areas like malls and offices – or even to use subways and buses.

Many people have become frustrated about having to queue for hours to be tested at the thousands of booths scattered around the city.

Some parts of Shanghai had remained under or returned to lockdown shortly after June 1 due to positive cases and their close contacts. Three of the latest infections that led to several closures were traced to a popular beauty salon in the city centre. Meanwhile, Beijing shut entertainment and internet venues in two of the capital’s largest districts after tracing cases to a few bars.

While China’s infection rate is low by global standards, President Xi Jinping has doubled down on a zero-COVID policy that authorities say is needed to protect the elderly and the medical system, even as other countries try to live with the virus.

Mainland China reported 151 new coronavirus cases on 9 June, of which 45 were symptomatic and 106 were asymptomatic, the National Health Commission said on Friday.