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The U.S. State Department is ordering non-emergency government staff to leave China‘s most populated city as Covid levels rise in Shanghai. 

‘The United States has no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas, including Mission China’s personnel and their families,’ a U.S. embassy spokesperson said in a statement. 

The order came only days after Washington has said all non-emergency employees and family members from the U.S. consulate in Shanghai were allowed to leave, and told Americans to reconsider travel to China because of the ‘arbitrary enforcement’ of virus restrictions.

Residents stand behind barricades set around a sealed-off area, during a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease in Shanghai, China, pictured on Monday

Residents stand behind barricades set around a sealed-off area, during a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease in Shanghai, China, pictured on Monday

Residents stand behind barricades set around a sealed-off area, during a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease in Shanghai, China, pictured on Monday

A child is seen accompanied by her mother studies while receiving treatment in the quarantine zone at the Shanghai New International Expo Center this weekend in Shanghai, China

A child is seen accompanied by her mother studies while receiving treatment in the quarantine zone at the Shanghai New International Expo Center this weekend in Shanghai, China

A child is seen accompanied by her mother studies while receiving treatment in the quarantine zone at the Shanghai New International Expo Center this weekend in Shanghai, China

Firemen in PPE carry medical supplies to a temporary warehouse in Shanghai, China Sunday

Firemen in PPE carry medical supplies to a temporary warehouse in Shanghai, China Sunday

Firemen in PPE carry medical supplies to a temporary warehouse in Shanghai, China Sunday

‘Our change in posture reflects our assessment that it is best for our employees and their families to be reduced in number and our operations to be scaled down as we deal with the changing circumstances on the ground,’ the spokesperson noted. 

The departure order will be up for review in another 30 days.  

‘Reconsider travel to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws and COVID-19-related restrictions,’ the State Department said in a statement on Monday.

‘Do not travel to the PRC’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), Jilin province, and Shanghai municipality due to COVID-19-related restrictions, including the risk of parents and children being separated,’ the statement said.  

The statement comes as something of a surprise after Shanghai started easing its lockdown in some areas despite reporting a record of more than 25,000 new COVID-19 infections. 

Authorities sought to get the city, home to China’s financial center and 25 million residents, moving again.   

Some areas are struggling to find food and medicine after spending more than three weeks locked down in China’s battle to contain its biggest COVID-19 outbreak since coronavirus was first discovered in central Wuhan in late 2019.

An employee prepares online orders for delivery at a Burger King store in Shanghai, Sunday

An employee prepares online orders for delivery at a Burger King store in Shanghai, Sunday

An employee prepares online orders for delivery at a Burger King store in Shanghai, Sunday

Residents take bags with vegetables at the entrance of a neighborhood during a COVID-19 lockdown in the Jing'an district in Shanghai on Monday

Residents take bags with vegetables at the entrance of a neighborhood during a COVID-19 lockdown in the Jing'an district in Shanghai on Monday

Residents take bags with vegetables at the entrance of a neighborhood during a COVID-19 lockdown in the Jing’an district in Shanghai on Monday

A volunteer delivers daily necessities in a residential compound in a prevention area of Putuo District, east China's Shanghai on Monday

A volunteer delivers daily necessities in a residential compound in a prevention area of Putuo District, east China's Shanghai on Monday

A volunteer delivers daily necessities in a residential compound in a prevention area of Putuo District, east China’s Shanghai on Monday

Shocking footage filmed over the weekend shows locals fighting for emergency supplies

Shocking footage filmed over the weekend shows locals fighting for emergency supplies

Shocking footage filmed over the weekend shows locals fighting for emergency supplies

The government has divided residential units into three categories.

These consist of 7,624 areas that are still sealed off, while a group of 2,460 is subject to ‘controls’ after a week of no new infections, and 7,565 ‘prevention areas’ that will be opened up after two weeks of no positive cases.

City government official Gu Honghui said Shanghai would make ‘dynamic’ adjustments to the residential classification system as he vowed greater efforts to minimise the impact of curbs on ordinary people living in China’s most populous city.

‘We also hope all citizens and friends will continue to support and cooperate with the city’s epidemic prevention and control work,’ Gu told a news briefing.

Those living in ‘prevention areas’ can now move around their neighbourhoods, but must observe social distancing and could be sealed off again if there are new infections, he added.

A lone motorcyclist takes to the streets of Shanghai on Saturday

A lone motorcyclist takes to the streets of Shanghai on Saturday

Delivery drivers must bring food from supermarkets to hungry locals - but distribution has been fraught

Delivery drivers must bring food from supermarkets to hungry locals - but distribution has been fraught

Photos taken on Saturday show the city remains deserted as Shanghai’s lockdown groans on

However, a ‘dynamic clearance’ policy remains Shanghai’s ‘best option’, said Liang Wannian, the head of the National Health Commission’s working group on COVID-19.

It was misleading to characterise Omicron as ‘big flu’ and lowering China’s guard would expose its huge elderly population to risk, especially as the virus mutates, Liang said on a visit to the eastern city.

‘If we lie flat, the epidemic would just be a disaster for these kinds of vulnerable people,’ the People’s Daily newspaper of the ruling Communist Party quoted Liang as saying.

The city faces pressure not only to curb local transmissions but halt the spread to other regions, he added.

Shanghai added 25,173 new asymptomatic infections on Sunday, up from 23,937 the previous day, although symptomatic cases edged down to 914 from 1,006.

The interior view of a makeshift hospital converted from the National Exhibition and Convention Center (NECC) in  Shanghai

The interior view of a makeshift hospital converted from the National Exhibition and Convention Center (NECC) in  Shanghai

The interior view of a makeshift hospital converted from the National Exhibition and Convention Center (NECC) in  Shanghai

A worker in a protective suit keeps watch next to barricades set around a sealed-off area, during a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease in Shanghai

A worker in a protective suit keeps watch next to barricades set around a sealed-off area, during a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease in Shanghai

A worker in a protective suit keeps watch next to barricades set around a sealed-off area, during a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease in Shanghai

Source: Daily Mail

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