Shanghai on Monday reported the first deaths linked to the city’s ongoing Covid-19 outbreak—China’s worst since the start of the pandemic—as the rise in cases in eastern China and the country’s commitment to a zero-Covid approach prompted more cities to impose pandemic restrictions despite concerns of major economic disruption.
Three unvaccinated people aged between 89 and 91 died with Covid on Sunday, local officials in Shanghai announced in a press briefing.
An additional 16 infected people remained in a critical condition, city officials added.
The Covid deaths in Shanghai are the first reported in China in nearly a month, after two fatalities linked to the disease reported in Jilin marked the country’s first Covid deaths since January 2021.
Shanghai on Monday added 19,831 new asymptomatic cases and 2,417 symptomatic cases to its overall tally, according to China’s National Health Commission.
The city is entering the fourth week of its ongoing Covid-19 lockdown—initially scheduled to be ten days long—with no definitive end in sight.
4,641. That’s the total number of Covid-19 deaths that China has reported since the start of the pandemic. When adjusted for population size, China has one of the lowest pandemic death rates of any country—below 0.5 per 100,000 population. In comparison, the United States has reported more than 300 deaths per 100,000.
Shanghai has reported more than 300,000 Covid-19 cases since the start of the current outbreak in late March. While authorities began to loosen some curbs last week, most of the city remains under lockdown. The stringent three week long lockdown has caused some anger and discontent among the city’s residents due to several issues like food shortages and stringent quarantine rules. The outbreak in Shanghai has been fueled by the highly infectious omicron subvariant known as BA.2 which appears to have blunted the effectiveness of China’s lockdown and mass testing efforts.
Despite growing criticism about its effectiveness in the face of a highly transmissible virus, Beijing has vowed to stick with its zero-Covid strategy. Last week Chinese President Xi Jinping backed the approach stating that “prevention and control work cannot be relaxed.” Xi’s stance was endorsed in an editorial published in the state-run People’s Daily on Monday which said the strategy was “correct and effective” and called on the Chinese people to stick to it “unswervingly and unrelentingly.”
Shanghai reports 1st deaths from current COVID-19 outbreak (Associated Press)