Shanghai steps up defences against wave of asymptomatic COVID cases

People wearing protective masks walk on street, following new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in Shanghai, China February 14, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song

SHANGHAI, March 9 (Reuters) - The Chinese financial hub of Shanghai is moving quickly to halt the spread of COVID-19 amid a rising wave of local symptomless cases, testing tens of thousands of people, delaying dozens of concerts and exhibitions and shutting some public venues.

Shanghai reported 62 domestically transmitted asymptomatic infections for Tuesday, the seventh consecutive day of increases in such cases, official data showed on Wednesday. That was the highest daily count for the city since China started in late March 2020 to classify symptomless infections separately from confirmed cases.

The mega-city of 24.9 million also reported for Tuesday three local cases with confirmed symptoms.

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Of the 65 cases, all but one were detected among people already under quarantine as they were close contacts of infected people reported earlier.

Shanghai's latest outbreak is small compared with those in many big cities overseas, and it has yet to impose a blanket travel curb or lockdowns.

Many Chinese cities including Shanghai have detected Omicron variants among local infections, but the total number nationwide remains unclear.

While China has shown no sign of ditching its "zero-clearance" policy aimed at containing outbreaks as quickly as possible, it has told local governments across the country to minimise the impact of counter-COVID measures on people's daily lives.

But some degree of inconvenience has been felt in Shanghai since the latest wave of infections emerged earlier this month.

Dozens of housing and office compounds in the city where confirmed cases and their close contacts had visited have been cordoned off and their occupants told to undergo up to 14-day quarantines.

Many leisure events, such as concerts, exhibitions and tutoring sessions have been delayed or cancelled. Even some retiree dance groups, which are a familiar sight in the city's parks, have been told to stop gathering.

"My happy Friday is gone," one user on Twitter-like platform Weibo wrote, after several performances at the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre were cancelled.

Including infections in Shanghai, mainland China reported 233 local cases with confirmed symptoms and 322 without symptoms for March 8.

Those domestically transmitted cases were found across over 40 cities, a spread which does not bode well for a hoped-for recovery in retail, aviation and tourism, analysts said.

"As the virus has spread to around 20 provinces in China and with a tendency of spreading more widely, the hit on consumption would last for a while, unlike our previous forecasts with a gradually warming consumption recovery," said Tang Jianwei, chief researcher at the Financial Research Center of Bank of Communications.

China also reported 104 symptomatic infections and 77 asymptomatic among travellers arriving from outside mainland for March 8.

There were no new deaths, leaving the death toll unchanged at 4,636.

As of March 8, mainland China had reported 111,857 cases with confirmed symptoms since the pandemic began, including both local and imported ones.

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Reporting by Ryan Woo, Roxanne Liu, Albee Zhang and Beijing Newsroom in Beijing, Engen Tham and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Kim Coghill and Lincoln Feast.

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