More than 2,000 military medics and 10,000 medical workers from around China have been deployed to Shanghai in recent days to help tame the city’s coronavirus outbreak — a potential sign of the central Chinese government’s concern that cases there have spiraled out of local officials’ control.
Shanghai is battling its worst outbreak since the pandemic began over two years ago. Since cases began spiking last month, driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant, the city of 26 million has recorded more than 60,000 cases. On Monday, officials confirmed more than 9,000 new cases from the day before.
The numbers, while low compared with those in most other countries, have been a source of significant anxiety in a country that is still refusing to coexist with the virus. The number of new daily cases has increased tenfold from just two weeks ago.
At first, Shanghai — China’s financial hub, and a place that has long prided itself on its cosmopolitan reputation — had tried to chart a more nuanced course than the heavy-handed lockdowns that have marked China’s virus response elsewhere. City officials insisted that a full lockdown would be too disruptive economically, opting for a staggered one instead. Some experts also floated the prospect of eventually loosening restrictions.
But over the weekend, the official line began to shift. On Saturday, a top central government official visited Shanghai and called for the government there to continue pursuing a policy of having no cases “without hesitation.” In addition, parts of the city that were due to be released from lockdown were not, effectively leaving the entire city paralyzed.
The mass mobilization of workers from around the country echoed the central government’s response to the outbreak in Wuhan, where the pandemic began, in early 2020. As that city staggered under the weight of the then-new virus, tens of thousands of medical workers poured into the city to help, according to the state news media.
In Shanghai, 10,000 workers arrived from other provinces in recent days to staff makeshift hospitals and assist with citywide testing, according to Xinhua, the state news agency. In addition, the 2,000 military medics — accompanied by military transport planes — arrived on Sunday.
While many residents have already been tested multiple times, the city is kicking off a renewed three-day citywide testing campaign on Monday.