US orders consular staff to leave Shanghai amid COVID surge

The United States has ordered all non-emergency consular staff to leave Shanghai, which is under a strict lockdown to contain a surge of COVID-19.

BEIJING (AP) — The United States has ordered all non-emergency consular staff to leave Shanghai, which is under strict lockdown measures to contain a surge of COVID-19.

Many residents of the city of 26 million have been confined to their homes for up to three weeks as China maintains its “zero-COVID” strategy of managing outbreaks with strict isolation and mass testing.

The State Department said the order announced Monday night is an update to last week’s “authorized” departure notice that made the decision voluntary. The order covers non-emergency US government employees at the consulate in Shanghai and their family members.

“Our change in stance reflects our assessment that it is in the best interests of our employees and their families to reduce their numbers and for our operations to scale back as we deal with changing circumstances on the ground,” the announcement said.

The State Department also issued a series of advisories for Americans in Shanghai, including to make sure you have a “sufficient supply of money, medicine, food and other necessities for your family in case of sudden restrictions or quarantine.”

China’s government and fully state-controlled media are becoming increasingly defensive over complaints about COVID-19 prevention measures.

Beijing responded angrily to last week’s voluntary departure notice, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian saying China was “very dissatisfied with and firmly opposed to the baseless accusation by the US side against China’s epidemic response.” ”.

In that announcement, the State Department advised Americans to reconsider traveling to China due to the “arbitrary application” of local laws and COVID-19 restrictions, particularly in Hong Kong, Jilin province, and Shanghai. US officials cited the risk of “parents and children being separated.”

Shanghai authorities also say they have secured daily supplies for residents, following complaints about deliveries of food and other necessities not being available or inadequate for demand.

Shanghai says it will gradually lift some restrictions in neighborhoods where no new infections have been reported in the past two weeks. Residents will be able to travel around their districts but not gather in groups. Others will be restricted to their immediate neighborhoods.

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