A top Shanghai official on Thursday acknowledged shortcomings in the local government’s handling of a surge of coronavirus cases, a rare admission of mistakes in China’s economic and financial powerhouse.
Officials in the metropolitan area of 26 million have imposed tough restrictions that have rattled many, first locking down individual neighborhoods before reversing course and imposing a staggered lockdown across the city that they said would allow them to conduct mass testing.
In response, multiple banks and investment companies in the country’s financial hub are keeping traders and fund managers at their offices to keep business going. Companies provided foldable beds, sleeping bags and other items to staff members camping out at work.
The lockdowns prompted panic-buying as people to get supplies before they were hastened to their homes, and some have confined online that they are unable to get some essentials. Some residents, including people who say they need dialysis and chemotherapy, have said that they have had trouble receiving medical assistance while under lockdown.
The official, Ma Chunlei, the deputy secretary general of Shanghai’s government, called the surge in Omicron cases the city’s “toughest challenge,” saying officials were not “sufficiently prepared for the dramatic increase in the number of infected people.”
“We sincerely accept everyone’s criticism and are working hard to improve,” Mr. Ma said at a news conference. He did not elaborate or address specific complaints.
Shanghai’s health commission on Thursday reported 5,653 confirmed new cases the previous day, of which 5,298 were asymptomatic. Over 30,000 cases have been identified in the past month, up from just a handful.
China’s case numbers are low compared with many countries, especially when it comes to serious illness and death. But the central government is pushing officials across the country to stamp out the virus, deploying measures that are among the world’s strictest.
Criticism of the Shanghai government has ballooned since the Omicron outbreak began this month. On Tuesday, a post went up on China’s popular social media site Weibo for people to request help. It was not clear who set up the post. As of Thursday, it had received 200 million views.
One family who registered concern on the site was that of Zhang Benxian, a 58-year-old resident of Pudong. He said that his wife had uremia — a buildup of toxins in the blood — and that the lockdown had made it difficult for them to get the mandatory PCR tests they needed for her to receive treatment at the hospital. Mr. Zhang said his wife had not received treatment for five days, even though it was supposed to be performed every two days.
“Her body now has no strength; she can’t even sit still,” Mr. Zhang said in a telephone interview.
Shanghai’s health authorities have said that patients requiring treatments like Mr. Zhang’s wife should not be barred from medical access.
Shanghai initially took a surgical approach to restrictions, choosing to lock down only specific neighborhoods and testing only residents who came into close contact with confirmed cases, arguing that its role as China’s economic capital meant it could not afford a complete shutdown like other Chinese cities.
But in a change of course, the east side of the city has now been placed under lockdown, which will be lifted Friday once testing efforts in the area conclude. Then, the western portion of the city will be placed under the same restrictions starting Friday.
Health officials said Wednesday that Shanghai had tested 9.1 million people so far during this round of lockdown that began on Monday.