Millions in lockdown as China's largest city Shanghai divided in half to combat Covid cases

ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward outlines the measures taken by authorities to control the Covid surge spreading through mainland China’s most significant financial hub

China's biggest city and financial hub has been divided in two and begun the country's biggest lockdown since the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, as Shanghai battles to control a growing Covid outbreak.

Shanghai will lock down the city of 26 million in two stages with residents required to stay at home and deliveries left at checkpoints to ensure there is no contact with the outside world.

Only offices and all businesses considered essential will be allowed to open and public transport suspended. Close contacts are being quarantined at home or in a central government facility as the city seeks to eradicate community transmission of the virus as quickly as possible. This is the first time Shanghai has been put on lockdown.

The lockdown will be in two phases, with the financial district and nearby areas locked down from Monday to Friday to allow for mass testing with many of the 26 million residents required to take multiple Covid tests.

In the second phase of the lockdown, the area west of the Huangpu River that divides the city will start its own five-day lockdown from Friday.

Residents who test positive for the virus or who are a close contact of someone who has Covid, are being taken to hospital or large quarantine centres converted to house thousands of patients.

Panic-buying was reported on Sunday ahead of the lockdown, with supermarket shelves cleared of food, beverages and household items.

A woman gets a coronavirus test at an outdoor testing site. Credit: AP

The citywide lockdown is China's most extensive in two years since Wuhan, where the virus was first detected in late 2019, where 11 million people were confined to their homes for 76 days in early 2020.

Another 3,500 Covid cases were reported in Shanghai on Sunday. Nationwide, 1,219 new confirmed cases of domestic infection were detected on Sunday, more than 1,000 of them in the north-eastern province of Jilin, along with 4,996 asymptomatic cases (which are reported separately in China), the National Health Commission reported on Monday. Jilin province is enforcing travel bans and partial lockdowns in several cities, including Changchun, one of the centres of the Chinese auto industry. China has called its long-standing “zero-tolerance” approach the most economical and effective prevention strategy against Covid-19 but there are concerns the on-going approach is damaging already slowing economic growth. The new measures being enforced in Shanghai aim to “curb the virus spread, protect people’s life and health, and achieve the dynamic zero-Covid target as soon as possible,” the city’s Covid-19 prevention and control office stated in an announcement Sunday evening. China’s vaccination rate is around 87%, but is considerably lower among older people who are more vulnerable to the virus. National data released earlier this month showed that over 52 million people aged 60 and older have yet to be vaccinated with any Covid-19 vaccine. Booster rates are also low, with only 56.4% of people between 60-69 having received a booster shot, and 48.4% of people between 70-79 having received one.