Shanghai tweaks lockdown as COVID-19 surge presses on

Shanghai healthcare worker at night wearing full PPE
Shanghai healthcare worker at night wearing full PPE

Robert Way / iStock

As Shanghai's lockdown enters its third week and amid public outcry about lapses in food supply and services, including medical treatment, officials today announced a plan to ease measures in some of the city's districts where no cases have been reported in the past 2 weeks.

In US developments, as cases inch upward in some parts of the country, Philadelphia today reintroduced a mask mandate, the first major city to do so.

Shanghai totals grow

Mass testing has been under way and the spread of the more transmissible Omicron variant has led to record cases for Shanghai. Cases have mostly been asymptomatic but the city is now reporting the highest portion of the country's symptomatic cases, just ahead of Jilin province.

China today reported 27,509 new local cases, 26,345 of them asymptomatic. Cases from Shanghai make up about 95% of the country's asymptomatic cases. Of China's 1,164 symptomatic cases today, 914 were from Shanghai, followed by 187 from Jilin province.

Officials in Shanghai announced that neighborhoods will be assigned a risk category, designed to ease restrictions in areas with no positive cases over the past 2 weeks, according to Reuters. So far, the city hasn't spelled out the details or timelines.

Elsewhere in China, officials in Guangzhou—a large port city and the capital of Guangdong province—are bracing for a surge, according to the Associated Press. Tightened measures include switching schools to online learning and urging people not to leave the city, which has a population of more than 15 million.

In other global developments:

  • Taiwan's daily cases continue to rise steadily, with 630 new cases reported today, reaching their highest level of the pandemic. Officials said they have signed an agreement with Pfizer to buy 700,000 courses of Paxlovid, the company's oral COVID-19 treatment.

  • The World Health Organization's COVID-19 emergency committee is meeting today for the 11th time to discuss the latest developments and assess if the situation still warrants a public health emergency of international concern. The committee last met on Jan 19. Typically, the group meets every 3 months or more often as needed.

Philadelphia reinstates mask mandates

In US news, amid rising cases, Philadelphia has become the first major city in the country to re-instate mask use in indoor public spaces.

"Starting April 18, masks will be required in all indoor public spaces, including schools and childcare settings, businesses, restaurants, and government buildings. At that time, residents will be asked to report any business not complying with the mandate," Philadelphia Public Health tweeted.

Since Mar 2, the city had no mask or vaccination requirements in places, but daily case counts have now increased by more than 50% in the past 10 days, triggering a change in citywide requirements.

Several states in the Northeast have seen a rise in cases caused by the BA.2 subvariant.

The 7-day average of new daily COVID-19 cases is 30,783, with 573 daily deaths, according to the Washington Post tracker. In the past week, new daily cases rose 2%, hospitalizations fell 1%, and deaths fell 13%.

Chief medical adviser to the White House Anthony Fauci, MD, told ABC News yesterday that US officials are watching the increase in cases very carefully and that Americans should continue assessing risk for themselves as cases start ticking up.

"This is not going to be eradicated, and it's not going to be eliminated," Fauci said. "So you're going to make a question and an answer for yourself, for me as an individual, for you as an individual. What is my age? What is my status? Do I have people at home who are vulnerable that if I bring the virus home there may be a problem?"

In related news, New York City Mayor Eric Adams tested positive for COVID-19 on his 100th day in office, the New York Times reports. Adams has been focused on reopening the city in the wake of its Omicron surge.

CIDRAP News Reporter Stephanie Soucheray contributed to this story.

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