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Shanghai asks residents to stay put on Christmas Day as COVID surges across China

Shanghai asks residents to stay put on Christmas Day as COVID surges across China

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SHANGHAI, Dec 24 (Reuters) – Authorities in Shanghai urged residents to stay home this weekend, seeking a quieter Christmas in the country’s most populous city as COVID-19 rages across the country after strict restrictions were lifted.

A branch of the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission on Saturday urged young people in particular to avoid large gatherings due to the easy spread of the coronavirus and cold temperatures.

Christmas is not traditionally celebrated in China, but it is common for young couples and some families to spend the holiday together.

The Omicron variant surged weeks after authorities abruptly ended their zero-covid policy, lifting strict testing requirements and travel restrictions as China became the latest major country to come to terms with the virus.

While many welcomed the relief, families and the health care system were unprepared for the subsequent surge in infections. Hospitals are fighting for beds and blood, pharmacies for drugs, and authorities are racing to build clinics.

Shanghai usually hosts a large Christmas market in an upscale shopping area along Nanjing West Road, and restaurants and retailers offer promotions to boost business.

But the spread of Omicron spoils the festivities.

Many restaurants in Shanghai have canceled Christmas parties usually held for regulars, while hotels have limited bookings due to staff shortages, said Jacqueline Mokata, who works in the hospitality industry.

“There are only a certain number of clients we can take into our workforce, with the majority of team members not well at the moment,” she said.

I AM SKEPTICAL OF THE OFFICIAL DATA

People have complained on social media that they will stay inside because most of their friends have tested positive for COVID.

“I originally planned to go to Shanghai for Christmas, but now I can only lie in bed,” wrote one person on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social network.

Infections in China are likely to be more than a million a day with deaths above 5,000 a day, in “stark contrast” to official figures, British health data company Airfinity said this week.

China’s National Health Authority reported 4,128 daily symptomatic COVID-19 infections on Saturday and no deaths for a fourth straight day.

Bloomberg News reported on Friday that nearly 37 million people may have been infected with COVID in a single day this past week, citing estimates by the government’s top health authority.

The emergency hotline in Taiyuan in the northern province of Shanxi has been receiving more than 4,000 calls a day, local media reported on Saturday.

Authorities in Taiyuan urged residents to call the number only for medical emergencies, saying the COVID guidelines “do not fall within the scope of the hotline.”

A health official in Qingdao said the port city was seeing an estimated 500,000 infections a day, media reported on Friday.

In Wuhan, the central city where COVID emerged three years ago, media reported on Friday that the local blood storage had only 4,000 units, enough for two days. The repository urged people to “roll up their sleeves and donate blood.”

Reporting by Josh Horwitz in Shanghai; Editing by William Mallard

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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