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US tells citizens to avoid Shanghai on ‘arbitrary’ COVID curbs locking down 25M people

Health workers wearing protective gear as a measure against COVID-19 in Jing'an district in Shanghai, China, on March 26, 2022. (Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)
April 09, 2022

The U.S. State Department asked Americans to reconsider travel to China and avoid visiting virus hot spots including Shanghai due to what it calls an “arbitrary enforcement” of COVID-19 restrictions amid the country’s worst outbreak.

In a travel advisory issued on Friday, Washington highlighted Hong Kong, and Jilin province in northeastern China in addition to Shanghai as places Americans should not travel to “due to COVID-19-related restrictions, including the risk of parents and children being separated.”

Non-emergency employees and their family members from the U.S. consulate in Shanghai are also allowed to leave. The city reported more than 23,600 new cases on Friday.

The U.S. embassy in China has notified Chinese officials of the voluntary departure decision and raised concerns regarding the ongoing outbreak and Beijing’s COVID response, according to a U.S. embassy spokesperson.

The move to allow voluntary departure of U.S. consulate employees in Shanghai and discourage Americans from visiting China’s mega cities Shanghai and Hong Kong could exacerbate tensions that already run high between the world’s two biggest economies amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.

China is struggling to stop the hyper-infectious omicron variant with lockdowns in several cities and repeated mass testing as it clings to a zero-tolerance approach. Known as COVID zero, the strategy has become less effective in preventing domestic flareups due to the growing contagiousness of new variants and more disruptive to economic activities and people’s lives. China’s adherence to it has left the country increasingly isolated in a world that have largely moved to reopening borders and living with the virus.

The lockdown of 25 million people in Shanghai and another 24 million in Jilin Province spurred growing angst and discontent among locals confined to their homes, as food supplies dwindled and others had difficulties in accessing timely health care. Officials have vowed better support for those under lockdown in recent days and reiterated the need to keep the COVID zero strategy amid growing questions from the public on whether it’s starting to cause more harm than good.


©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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