US withdraws non-emergency staff from Shanghai amid COVID-19 escalation

US withdraws non-emergency staff from Shanghai amid COVID-19 escalation.

The United States has ordered non-emergency government employees to leave Shanghai, which is under a tight lockdown 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 for dealing with the outbreak with strict isolation and mass testing.

But people living under restrictions said that their families could not leave their homes or obtain food and daily necessities. In contrast, people who tested positive for coronavirus were forced into mass quarantine centers where conditions were sometimes described as crowded and unhealthy.

On Tuesday, authorities said 23,342 more people in Shanghai had tested positive for the virus than the previous day, of whom only 994 had shown symptoms. Total infections topped more than 200,000 in the latest wave, although no additional deaths were reported.

The State Department announced that the order late Monday was an upgrade from last week's "authorized" departure warning, which made the decision voluntary. The order includes non-emergency US government employees at the Consulate in Shanghai and their family members. Consular officials will remain on duty at the Consulate.

"Our change in position reflects our assessment that our employees and their families should downsize and scale back our operations as we deal with changing conditions on the ground," the announcement read.

The State Department also declared a series of warnings to Americans in Shanghai, including making sure they have "adequate supplies of money, medicine, food, and other necessities for your family in sudden restrictions or quarantines."

The Chinese government and the fully state-controlled media are increasingly defensive about complaints about COVID-19 prevention measures.

Beijing reacted angrily to the voluntary departure advice last week. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that China was "deeply dissatisfied and firmly opposed the baseless US accusation against China's epidemic response."

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