Shanghai Covid Cases Hit Three-Month High As Schools Close

Shanghai’s Covid cases jumped to three-month high, while restrictions spread to other major cities ahead of a political event.

Staff members deliver supplies to residents at the entrance of a residential community under temporary closed-off management on October 11, 2022 in Shanghai, China. Photographer: VCG/Getty Images
Staff members deliver supplies to residents at the entrance of a residential community under temporary closed-off management on October 11, 2022 in Shanghai, China. Photographer: VCG/Getty Images

Shanghai’s Covid cases jumped to a three-month high and the stealth rollout of restrictions spread to other major cities across the country as officials try to contain the virus just days before one of China’s most important political events.

The financial hub reported 47 new infections for Wednesday, the most since July 13 when a brief rise in cases revived fears of another general lockdown. Of the latest cases, all but two were found in quarantine. Beijing recorded 18 cases Wednesday. Nationwide, there were 1,406 new local cases for Wednesday, down from 1,709 the day before. 

While small by international standards, the flareup is occurring just days before China’s once-in-five-years Party Congress, when President Xi Jinping is expected to secure a precedent-breaking third term in power. So far, China’s most important cities have avoided large-scale shutdowns, with officials instead quietly halting a growing list of activities.

Several schools in Shanghai have suspended in-person classes as the fear of infection spread grows, according to parents and social media posts. The port city of Tianjin has locked down one district and the southern megacity of Guangzhou has shut schools in one area. Zhengzhou, an iPhone manufacturing hub, has quietly locked down at least two districts.

China is reinforcing its commitment to Covid Zero, which Xi has made a cornerstone of his leadership and is likely to trumpet at the Party Congress, despite its heavy social and economic toll. The country’s propaganda machine has ramped up its defense of the controversial policy this week in a sign there’ll be no shift toward living with the virus any time soon. 

Read more: China Ramps Up Covid Zero Propaganda in Message to Xi’s Critics

Shanghai’s flareup has left many of the city’s 25 million on edge as the creeping restrictions stoke concerns about a broader lockdown. As well as the ad hoc school closures, at least five districts have closed entertainment venues, including cinemas, bars and gyms, in an effort to stamp out transmission, according to statements issued by Covid prevention offices.

Authorities in the financial hub said Sunday there’s no citywide school shutdown after speculation rippled through social media that the measure would be rolled out. Some neighborhoods are locked down, while individual compounds in other areas have been barricaded with the green fences that were a feature of the extended shutdown earlier this year.

So far, lockdown nerves and the risk of getting caught in China’s policy of isolating both Covid cases and close contacts have only seen a small decline in subway ridership. Daily trips have retreated from their pre-Golden Week level, but are roughly in line with August’s ridership, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Read more: China’s Covid Zero Could Last for Years Because It Works For Xi

In Tianjin, which reported just one infection for Wednesday, the Nankai district has been shut down, with people not able to leave their residential compounds and non-essential businesses closed. Guangzhou’s Huadu area shut entertainment venues as well as schools, and residents are undergoing mass testing. The city posted 13 new cases.

In Henan province, large parts of two districts in Zhengzhou appear to have been locked down, according to social media posts and residents who’ve received notification from neighborhood committees. It’s taken many people by surprise after authorities on Tuesday said there wouldn’t be a citywide lockdown. 

The city reported 18 new cases for Wednesday. The Covid taskforce line for Zhengzhou city, as well as Gaoxin and Zhongyuan districts, were engaged and calls by Bloomberg News weren’t answered.

Residents took to social media to complain about the stealth shutdown. They echo sentiments from Shanghai residents, who have lamented the never-ending cycle of shutdowns and reopenings that’s a feature of Covid Zero, and speculated whether they may face another lockdown just months after a two-month ordeal that saw many in struggle to access food and medical care. 

(Updates to add details throughout.)

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