Beijing: Shanghai reported three deaths due to Covid, the first in the financial hub after it was hit by the Omicron variant last month, while a top official ruled out relaxing the curbs until the ruling Communist Party Congress met later this year to elect Chinese President Xi Jinping for a record 3rd term in power.
On Sunday, three Covid deaths were reported in Shanghai.
The deceased were two females and one male, aged between 89 and 91. They suffered from comorbidities including coronary heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, the city’s municipal health commission reported.
None of them was vaccinated against Covid and was in severe condition after being admitted to the hospital and every effort was made to save their lives, it said.
These are the first officially admitted fatalities after the city went into lockdown towards the end of last month.
According to China’s National Health Commission, the Chinese mainland on Sunday reported 2,723 locally transmitted confirmed Covid cases, of which 2,417 were in Shanghai.
Shanghai also reported 19,831 locally-transmitted asymptomatic infections of the novel coronavirus Sunday, out of a total of 20,639 local asymptomatic carriers newly identified on the mainland, the Commission report said.
By the end of Sunday, Shanghai had 16 Covid patients in severe condition receiving treatment in designated hospitals.
As the cases continued to spiral, health officials announced more Covid tests amid reports of growing anger and frustration of people about the continued lockdown for the third week.
Shanghai has seen a continuous decline of newly-reported cases in some areas while those under closed-off management will undergo nucleic acid testing once every day from Monday to Thursday, the local health commission said.
Meanwhile, as the Omicron continued to spread, China’s health minister Ma Xiaowei on Monday pledged the toughest measures yet to prevent a major outbreak of Covid, ruling out any relaxations ahead of this year’s 20th Communist Party Congress.
The once-in-five-year Congress of the CPC which is due to be held later this year has assumed significance as Xi, 68, is expected to get its endorsement for a third five-year tenure as the head of the Party, the military and the presidency.
The 3rd term is unprecedented as all his predecessors retired following the two-term norm for leaders. However, Xi is expected to continue power for life as he is conferred the title of a ''core leader'' like the Party founder Mao Zedong.
Vowing to continue the much-criticised Zero COVID policy, Ma in a front-page article published on Monday in party journal Study Times, urged the country to stick to the dynamic zero policy and take a clear-cut stand against “erroneous” thoughts of “coexisting with the virus”.
The bottom line is to prevent a large-scale rebound in cases and consolidate the hard-won results of pandemic control to welcome the opening of the CPC Congress, he said.
Ma’s article comes as domestic concerns have been raised over whether China’s hardline dynamic zero policy is sustainable in the face of more transmissible but milder variants like Omicron, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
The handling of the pandemic is widely seen as the political legacy of the party and Xi, who is expected to secure a third term at the Congress, the Post report said.
But discontent has been mounting in Shanghai, which is largely in lockdown as China grapples with its worst outbreak of the pandemic.
Ma said it was wrong to think of Covid-19 as “just like flu” or “we should live with Covid”.
“The big test continues. There must not be the slightest relaxation. Healthcare systems around the country must remain in an emergency state,” he wrote.
“Any relaxation or reduction in requirements, any formalism or bureaucracy, any loopholes the size of a needle will result in an ignition point of the epidemic, which means paying dozens or even hundreds of times the price,” the Post report quoted him.
Ma said China’s huge population, unbalanced development and lack of medical resources meant the healthcare system could be crushed, which in turn would seriously threaten the health of people with underlying diseases, the elderly, children and pregnant women.
“The stable economy and social development would be seriously impacted. The people will not agree, and the party and government will never allow this to happen,” he said.
Ma said the virus is continuing to mutate and the pandemic trajectory is still uncertain. “We are far from being able to breathe a sigh of relief and take a break,” he said.
He pledged “the strictest, most thorough, most resolute and decisive” measures in the face of the rapidly spreading Omicron – detection, contact tracing and isolation of high-risk people as early as possible to stop the spread in the community.
“The Omicron mutant strain is highly contagious and can produce a large number of infected people in a short period of time, triggering a rapid increase in the demand for resources for epidemic prevention and control,” Ma wrote.
“The lack of isolation facilities is the most prominent problem. It is impossible to talk about an effective response to the Omicron epidemic without solving the problem of isolation, or the healthcare system providing continuous and stable daily medical services for the public without isolating the asymptomatic mildly-ill patients in makeshift hospitals”, he said.