Shanghai residents panic, sleep in office as lockdown threats loom amid China’s biggest COVID-19 outbreak

COVID-19 outbreak since the outbreak began two years ago, as the highly transmissible Omicron variant continues to frustrate authorities.

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A total of 981 cases were reported in China’s largest city on Wednesday, all but four being asymptomatic. This represents nearly one-fifth of the nation’s daily tally.

To minimize disruption, the city of Shanghai’s response to the outbreak has been to lock down areas with confirmed cases or close contacts rather than enact a citywide lockdown.

However, as the number of reported cases has risen, so has public anxiety; residents have taken to social media to express concerns of further lockdowns in the roughly 25 million-person city.

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The public has voiced concerns over unclear government messaging and images of expanding test sites, as well as the announcement this week that some indoor arenas have been turned into mass-quarantine sites.

“We hope that everyone will not believe or spread rumours, and especially do not maliciously spread rumours that cause panic in society,” Wu Jinglei, head of Shanghai’s health commission said at a daily briefing.

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Those spreading rumours would “bear legal responsibility,” he added.

“Everyone is working hard to keep the city safe.”

Schools in Shanghai have been closed for nearly two weeks, but the city has avoided the kind of city-wide lockdowns imposed in some northeastern cities.

Despite this, its normally busy streets are muted as citizens live every day with the risk of suddenly being confined for anything between two and fourteen days at home. 

(With inputs from agencies)