The United States has ordered all non-emergency consular staff to leave Shanghai, which is under lockdown to contain a surge of COVID-19
BEIJING — The United States has ordered all non-emergency consular personnel to leave Shanghai, which is under strict control to contain a surge of COVID-19.
The State Department said the order is an upgrade from the “permitted” departure issued last week that made the decision voluntary.
The order covers “non-emergency U.S. government employees and their family members of the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai.”
In its Monday evening announcement, the department said, “Our change in posture reflects our assessment that it is best for our employees and their families to be reduced in number and for our operations to be reduced as we face the changing circumstances on the ground. .”
Many residents of the city of 26 million have been confined to their homes for up to three weeks. Many describe an increasingly desperate situation, with families unable to leave their homes or to stock up on food and basic necessities, while those who tested positive for the virus were forced to go to centers quarantine where conditions were sometimes described as overcrowded and unsanitary.
The Chinese government and fully state-controlled media are increasingly on the defensive of complaints about COVID-19 prevention measures.
Beijing responded angrily to last week’s voluntary departure notice, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian saying China was “strongly unhappy with and firmly opposed to the US side’s groundless accusation against China’s epidemic response”.
In the announcement, the State Department advised Americans to reconsider travel to China due to the “arbitrary application” of local laws and COVID-19-related restrictions, particularly in Hong Kong, in the province of Jilin and Shanghai. US officials have spoken of the risk of “parents and children being separated”.
Shanghai authorities also say they have ensured the daily supply of residents, following complaints about deliveries of food and other basic necessities.
Residents have resorted to group buying groceries because they are not allowed to leave their buildings, with only partial success in obtaining needed items.
Shanghai says it will gradually lift some restrictions on neighborhoods where no new infections have been reported for the past two weeks. Residents will be able to move around their neighborhoods but not meet in groups. Others will be confined to their immediate vicinity.
The capital, Beijing, has seen relatively few restrictions, although the Erjiefang district, including the famous 798 art district, has been cordoned off and classified as high risk after eight infections were reported there in the last two weeks.
China is facing one of its worst local outbreaks since the pandemic began. China is still mostly closed to international travel, even though most of the world has sought ways to live with the virus.