A top Shanghai official admitted Thursday that China’s second largest city had been “insufficiently prepared” for the COVID-19 wave that is striking the coastal financial hub — a rare admission in the communist-run country, which has taken a draconian approach to fighting the virus.
The official, Ma Chunlei, said the city was “insufficiently prepared for the substantial increase in infected people” and apologized for the disruptions, according to Agence France-Presse.
“We sincerely accept everyone’s criticism, and are working hard to improve,” Mr. Ma said at a news conference.
Residents in Shanghai’s eastern half are locked down and subject to testing before the restrictions switch to the western half after this week, leading to panic-buying of food and other goods and concerns about necessary medical care.
China on Thursday reported 8,559 new cases in the previous 24-hour period, of which 6,720 had no symptoms, according to the Associated Press. The proportion of asymptomatic cases has been higher than in previous outbreaks, particularly in Shanghai. About 100 of the new cases were imported ones among people who had recently arrived from abroad.
Mr. Ma’s admission that officials were ill prepared for the omicron-driven wave is unusual admission and reflects public agitation around the Communist government’s efforts to control the virus.
The central government is pushing a “zero-COVID” policy that does not tolerate any sign of the virus, as Western nations try to manage the disease as a given in society and focus on hospital capacity. Experts have told The Washington Times they do not expect Chinese President Xi Jinping to back off his strict virus policies at least until after the 20th Party Congress this October.
Scientists are worried China is in a poor position to deal with the omicron wave because it lacks widespread immunity from prior infections and is using vaccines that are considered less effective than messenger-RNA shots in other nations.
The AP reported that there was a bit of good news elsewhere in China: Authorities said they were easing a citywide lockdown in the province that has been hardest hit.
Residents of Jilin, located in the province which borders North Korea in the north, will be able to move about freely starting Friday for the first time in more than three weeks, state broadcaster CCTV said, citing a city announcement. They will be required to wear masks and even when indoors practice social distancing. Public gatherings in parks and squares are prohibited.
The spread of COVID-19 has been brought under control in Jilin but not in the rest of Jilin province, officials said at a news conference, according to the wire service. Some progress has been made in Changchun, the provincial capital and an auto manufacturing hub that has been locked down for nearly three weeks.
— This article was based in part on wire service reports.