SHANGHAI, Dec 24 (Reuters) – Shanghai authorities urged residents to stay home this weekend, seeking a relaxed Christmas in the country’s most populous city, as COVID-19 rages across the country. after the lifting of the strict restrictions.
A branch of the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission on Saturday urged young people in particular to avoid crowded gatherings, due to the ease of spread of the coronavirus and low temperatures.
Christmas is not traditionally celebrated in China, but it is common for young couples and some families to spend the holiday together.
The Omicron variant is rising weeks after authorities abruptly ended its zero-COVID policy, lifting stringent testing requirements and travel restrictions as China becomes the latest major country to move toward co-existence with the virus.
While many welcomed the relaxation, families and the healthcare system were unprepared for the resulting surge in infections. Hospitals are fighting for beds and blood, pharmacies for medicines, and authorities are rushing to build clinics.
Shanghai often hosts a large Christmas-themed market in an upscale shopping area along Nanjing West Road, and restaurants and retailers offer promotions to encourage business.
But the spread of Omicron is dampening the celebrations.
Many Shanghai restaurants have canceled Christmas parties that are normally held for regular customers, while hotels have limited bookings due to staff shortages, said Jacqueline Mocatta, who works in the hospitality industry.
“There are only a certain number of clients we can accept given our manpower, and most of the team members are unwell right now,” he said.
Skepticism about official data
People lamented on social media that they will be staying inside as most of their friends have tested positive for COVID.
“I originally planned to go to Shanghai for Christmas, but now I can only lie in bed,” wrote one person on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social network.
Infections in China are likely to be more than a million a day with more than 5,000 deaths a day, in a “stark contrast” to official data, Britain-based health information Airfinity said this week.
China’s national health authority reported 4,128 daily symptomatic COVID-19 infections and no deaths for the fourth consecutive day on Saturday.
Bloomberg News reported Friday that nearly 37 million people may have been infected with COVID in a single day last week, citing estimates from the government’s top health authority.
The emergency hotline in Taiyuan, in the northern province of Shanxi, was receiving more than 4,000 calls a day, a local media outlet said on Saturday.
Taiyuan authorities urged residents to call the number for medical emergencies only, saying COVID guidance is “not within the range of the hotline.”
A health official in Qingdao said the port city was experiencing an estimated 500,000 infections a day, media reported on Friday.
In Wuhan, the central city where COVID emerged three years ago, media reported Friday that the local blood warehouse had just 4,000 units, enough to last two days. The repository called on people to “roll up your sleeves and donate blood.”
Reporting by Josh Horwitz in Shanghai; Edited by William Mallard
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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