The U.S. State Department has ordered all non-emergency personnel stationed in Shanghai to leave the eastern Chinese city, which is struggling to deal with an escalating surge of new COVID-19 cases.
Monday’s order comes three days after the State Department announced that non-emergency personnel could leave the consulate voluntarily.
“Our change in posture reflects our assessment that it is best for our employees and their families to be reduced in number and our operations to be scaled down as we deal with the changing circumstances on the ground,” the consulate said in a statement posted on the website of the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in China.
Shanghai’s 26 million residents have been ordered to remain in their homes since early April in response to the surge of new COVID-19 infections largely driven by the highly contagious omicron variant; of the more than 27,000 new locally transmitted cases reported in China Monday, the majority of them came from the financial hub.
The lockdown has led to growing complaints online of a lack of fresh food, especially vegetables, with grocery stores closed and residents unable to obtain food deliveries through online apps. The mounting anger prompted citizens to scream in unison from the open windows of their high-rise apartments Saturday that was caught on video and quickly went viral on social media.
City authorities Monday announced an easing of the strict lockdown measures in an effort to quell the growing outrage. Residents in neighborhoods with no recorded cases over the past 14 days will allow residents to leave their homes, while other communities will be allowed limited movement and others will remain under strict lockdown.
The breakthrough of new COVID-19 cases in China is happening despite Beijing’s official “zero COVID” strategy that aims to completely eliminate coronavirus outbreaks across the mainland.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.