SHANGHAI: Shanghai's vice mayor admitted to shortcomings in the city's handling of its COVID-19 outbreak as a record 23,600 new cases were reported on Saturday (Apr 9), while the US allowed non-essential staff and their families to leave its consulate in the city.
Deputy Mayor Zong Ming praised the support from the public and the work of front line workers despite public criticism of strict curbs, but said the handling of the virus needed to improve.
"We feel the same way about the problems everyone has raised and voiced," Zong told a daily briefing. "A lot of our work has not been enough, and there's still a big gap from everyone's expectations. We will do our best to improve."
Beijing intervened after the failure of Shanghai's initial effort to isolate the virus by locking down in stages, insisting that the country sticks to its zero-tolerance policy to prevent its medical system from being overwhelmed.
Elsewhere on Saturday, the southern megacity of Guangzhou - home to over 18 million people - said it would begin testing in all 11 of its districts, after cases were reported there on Friday.
In Beijing, the municipal government placed a high-risk area under lockdown after eight confirmed COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks, Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control, told reporters on Saturday.
In Shanghai, where 26 million people are in lockdown, residents have continued to complain about food shortages due to a lack of couriers and uncertainty about when lockdown curbs may end.
The government said it would conduct more testing on Saturday and would ease some movement curbs. Some residents of housing compounds with no recent cases said they had been notified by their neighbourhood committees that they could leave their homes to stroll within their compounds.
It did not signal a change of approach, however.
"The epidemic prevention and control is now at the most critical moment, and we cannot tolerate the slightest slack," Zong said.
Gu Jun, director of the city's commerce commission, acknowledged problems in distributing food supplies and said distribution centres, supermarkets, and pharmacies should continue operating online as much as possible.
E-commerce company JD.com Inc said on Saturday it had obtained a licence to deliver goods to Shanghai and hosted a livestreaming sales session joined by more than 3.5 million people.
Offered products were sold out within seconds and the hosts repeatedly pleaded for patience in response to commentators who complained that they were unable to purchase.
An official also addressed reports of patients recovering from COVID-19 but not being allowed to return to their compounds by neighbourhood committees, emphasising that there was no evidence of any risk from those that had been discharged.
On Friday, the United States State Department said in a travel advisory it was allowing non-emergency staff and their families to leave the Shanghai consulate due to the surge in cases and the impact of restrictions.
It advised US citizens to reconsider travel to China "due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws and COVID-19 restrictions".
Of Shanghai's newly reported cases on Saturday, 1,015 were recorded as symptomatic while 22,609 were asymptomatic.