China: COVID-19 cases continue to surge record high in Shanghai amid growing public anger

China on Friday reported more than 3,400 positive and 20,700 asymptomatic coronavirus cases, majority of them in Shanghai city which is reeling under prolonged lockdown, and where hospitals have been ordered not to delay treatment of non-COVID patients after an elderly woman died waiting for emergency care, sparking a public outcry.

The positive cases continued to be the highest in Shanghai.

The Chinese mainland on Thursday reported 3,472 locally transmitted confirmed COVID-19 cases, besides 20,782 asymptomatic cases, according to the National Health Commission (NHC).

China’s economic hub Shanghai reported 3,200 confirmed locally transmitted COVID-19 cases and 19,872 local asymptomatic carriers on Thursday, the municipal health commission said on Friday.

The city has already conducted many rounds of testing and built temporary hospitals, including in stadiums and swimming pools to treat both positive and asymptomatic cases.

Amid growing public anger over the hospitals refusing treatment for non-COVID patients, health officials in Shanghai on Friday ordered hospitals not to delay treatment of patients over COVID-19 restrictions after an elderly woman died.

The order came after Larry Hsien Ping Lang, a prominent economist, said on his social media Weibo account that his 98-year-old mother, who had kidney failure, was asked to wait for the test result before admission to the emergency room at a hospital in the eastern Chinese city.

“She waited for four hours, and the result had not yet come back,” Lang said, adding that: “She then left us.” In principle, public hospitals are required to keep medical services operational during the fight against COVID-19, a Shanghai official said, adding that this is especially the case for emergency and fever outpatient services, official media reported.

China, where the coronavirus first emerged in Wuhan in December 2019 before turning into a global pandemic, is significantly experiencing late surge of Omicron cases just as when the rest of the world began relaxing all the controls after bringing the virus under control.

The situation in Shanghai is so disquieting that even the official Chinese media started highlighting the public discontent.

As the city of Shanghai is going through the most difficult time in its fight against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, doubt, anxiety and fatigue are noticeable among local residents and some heart-wrenching stories could easily arouse the public mood, the state-run Global Times reported on Friday.

It is indeed the most difficult time for Shanghai as intensive public anger flooded the internet, the report said.

Millions of people in Shanghai faced various difficulties in the past weeks such as food shortage, delayed transfer of their infected neighbours to collective quarantine places, and the chaotic handling of residents’ daily requests in some neighbourhoods, the Post report said.

The worst affected are the elderly population. Shanghai is one of China’s first cities to develop a large ageing population.

According to the 2019 Shanghai Elderly Population and ageing Business Monitoring Statistics, Shanghai’s elderly population of 60 and over is approximately 5.815 million, suggesting that one in every three people is an elder. The number of elderly people living alone among them reached 317,400, the South China Morning Post reported.

This group of people became one the most vulnerable ones during Shanghai’s indefinite lockdown because the majority of them suffer from chronic diseases, it said.

China’s zero-case policy runs contrary to global trends. People’s livelihoods, and their spirits, have been put to the test; both will affect public trust in the government, the Post report said.

But Chinese President Xi Jinping continued to insist on the country following the zero-case policy. “Given that the global COVID pandemic situation is still grave, we must never relax our response. Victory comes from perseverance,” Xi said during a tour of Hainan province on Thursday.

“We must always put the people and their lives first, adhere to the principle of guarding against imported cases and domestic resurgences, and follow a science-based, targeted approach and zero-COVID policy,” he said.

People must not drop their guard, lose drive, take chances or slacken efforts, he said.