U.S. orders some personnel to leave Shanghai consulate amid COVID surge

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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 (COVID-19) in Shanghai, China April 11, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC2YKT9UITF1

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WASHINGTON, April 11 (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department on Monday ordered non-emergency U.S. government workers to leave the consulate in Shanghai due to a surge in COVID-19 cases and China's measures to control the virus.

On Friday, the State Department announced that non-emergency personnel could voluntarily leave the consulate. It is not clear why the departure of those workers has become mandatory.

China's zero-tolerance approach to COVID-19, prescribing central quarantine for anyone testing positive even in the absence of symptoms, is increasingly strained by the highly infectious, though less deadly, Omicron variant.

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The most controversial of Shanghai's practices had been separating COVID-positive children from their parents. Authorities have since made some concessions. read more

The State Department, which last week said it had raised its concerns about China's COVID-19 policies with Chinese officials, cited the risk of parents and children being separated in Monday's announcement.

The United States should "stop political manipulation under the pretext of the epidemic, and stop smearing China", Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily briefing on Tuesday in Beijing.

On Saturday, the ministry had expressed "strong dissatisfaction" with the United States after it raised concerns over China's coronavirus control measures. read more

Shanghai, fighting China's worst COVID outbreak since the virus first emerged in Wuhan in late 2019, locked down its entire population of 25 million but on Monday began easing movement curbs for some residents. read more

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Reporting by Eric Beech; additional reporting by Martin Quin Pollard in Beijing; editing by Dan Whitcomb, Kim Coghill and Alex Richardson

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