The US State Department has advised all non-emergency staff and their families to leave Shanghai as officials extend a lockdown in a large part of China’s biggest financial hub to contain an increasing surge in Covid-19.
US citizens were told to reconsider travel to China “due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws and Covid-19-related restrictions,” the government’s travel advisory note on Monday, April 11 said.
“Do not travel to the PRC’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), Jilin province, and Shanghai municipality due to Covid-19-related restrictions, including the risk of parents and children being separated,” the notice said.
“Reconsider travel to the PRC’s Hong Kong SAR due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”
The notice said China and Hong Kong’s “zero-tolerance approach” to Covid-19 severely impacts travel and access to public services. Travellers should prepare to quarantine at a state facility for at least 14 days, where health authorities would test them as often as daily for Covid and not permit them to leave their rooms.
Those who test positive would be transferred to another government medical or quarantine facility but “standards of care, accommodations, testing and treatments may differ considerably from standards in the United States.”
The advisory followed a similar notice by the department on Friday and another by the US Mission in Beijing on the weekend that said government employees could leave Shanghai if they wish – on commercial flights.
European diplomats also raised concern about China’s Covid response measures, particularly the possibility of families being separated for quarantine and medical care, the South China Morning Post said.
Beijing responded angrily to the initial US announcement. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Saturday that China was “strongly dissatisfied” and “firmly opposes” the “groundless accusation” about China’s Covid policies.
He said Beijing’s epidemic prevention measures were “scientific and effective” and that China had assisted foreign diplomats and consular staff on matters related to the coronavirus as much as they could.
“We have full confidence in Shanghai and other places to overcome the new round of outbreaks,” Zhao said.
On Tuesday, some residents of Shanghai stepped out of their homes for the first time in more than two weeks, as the city took steps towards easing its Covid lockdown amid mounting worries over the economic impact of the strict curbs.
However, Nomura said there had been a big rise over the past week in the number of Chinese cities implementing either a partial or a full lockdown. As of Monday, April 11, as many as 45 cities in China were implementing lockdowns, covering 373 million people and 40% of the economy, it said.
• Jim Pollard
Note: Further details were added to this report on April 12, 2022.