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Shanghai reports 12 new COVID deaths as frustrations boil over

The major financial hub of Shanghai reported 12 new COVID-19 related deaths on April 22, up from 11 the previous day, as frustrations among residents continued to boil over amid a harsh lockdown and strict censorship online.

The city, battling China’s biggest coronavirus outbreak so far, recorded 20,634 new local asymptomatic infections on Friday, rebounding from 15,698 a day earlier. Total new symptomatic cases reached 2,736, up from 1,931 on April 21, official data showed.

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The patients who died had an average age of 88, the Shanghai government said. All had underlying health conditions, and none had been vaccinated.

“One strategy that needs immediate implementation is to increase rates of the booster vaccination dose to the elderly and other vulnerable groups and to see if mRNA vaccines can be used,” said Jaya Dantas, a public health expert at the Curtin School of Population Health in Australia, who is monitoring the Shanghai outbreak.

China has yet to introduce its own mRNA vaccines, and has chosen not to import those developed overseas.

In a study published by China’s Disease Prevention and Control Center on Friday, medical experts in the northeastern city of Jilin, the location of another recent outbreak, said China’s vaccines have been effective so far, though new emerging COVID-19 variants remained unpredictable.

They said “the data is strong enough to indicate the public significance of the strategy of full and booster vaccination, particularly for the elder population.”

Pressures mounting

Though frustrations continued to bubble over in Shanghai’s sealed off residential compounds, local officials maintain there will be no relaxation until new cases outside of quarantine areas have all been cleared.

“The more critical the period becomes, the more we need to grit our teeth and focus our strength,” Shanghai Mayor Gong Zheng was quoted as saying on Shanghai’s official government WeChat channel late on Friday.

The number of cases outside quarantine areas stood at 218 on Friday, down from 250 the previous day.

Liang Wannian, head of a COVID-19 expert advisory body with the National Health Commission, told state television late on Friday that China’s current “dynamic” zero-COVID policies had given the country “time to prepare,” allowing it to strengthen vaccination levels.

Shanghai’s full-city lockdown began at the start of April, though many residents have been confined to their homes for much longer.

Tang Jiafu, a city official, acknowledged on Saturday that the disruptions were putting Shanghai’s environmental health under pressure, with less than half of its sanitation workers currently active, affecting garbage collection rates.

Even after shutting down for more than 30 days, some compounds are still reporting new cases, casting doubt on the efficacy of China’s approach.

“This is a significant amount of time and does have mental health impacts: people are exhausted and frustrated,” said Dantas.

On social media, netizens battled against censors overnight to share a six-minute video entitled “The Voice of April,” a montage of voices recorded over the course of the Shanghai outbreak.

Panning across Shanghai’s silent skyscrapers, the video consists of residents complaining about the lack of food and medicine, as well as the heavy-handed tactics of city authorities.

All direct references to the film were removed from the Weibo microblogging service by Saturday morning, though some comments criticizing the censorship survived.

“I can only say that if you don’t even want to listen to just a small amount of real voices, then it is really hopeless,” said one.

Many were reminded of the anger that erupted on social media two years ago following the death from COVID-19 of Li Wenliang, a doctor reprimanded by police for sharing “false” information about a new SARS-like infectious disease in Wuhan in late 2019.

“Dr. Li, after two years nothing has changed,” said another Weibo user. “We still can’t open our mouths, still can’t speak.”

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WHO: Over 4.1 million new COVID-19 cases reported globally, 18 pct increase 

The number of new coronavirus cases rose by 18 percent in the last week, with more than 4.1 million cases reported globally, according to the World Health Organization.

The UN health agency said in its latest weekly report on the pandemic that the worldwide number of deaths remained relatively similar to the week before, at about 8,500. COVID-related deaths increased in three regions: the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Americas.

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The biggest weekly rise in new COVID-19 cases was seen in the Middle East, where they increased by 47 percent, according to the report released late Wednesday. Infections rose by about 32 percent in Europe and Southeast Asia, and by about 14 percent in the Americas, WHO said.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said cases were on the rise in 110 countries, mostly driven by the omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5.

“This pandemic is changing, but it’s not over,” Tedros said this week during a press briefing.

He said the ability to track COVID-19’s genetic evolution was “under threat” as countries relaxed surveillance and genetic sequencing efforts, warning that would make it more difficult to catch emerging and potentially dangerous new variants.

He called for countries to immunize their most vulnerable populations, including health workers and people over 60, saying that hundreds of millions remain unvaccinated and at risk of severe disease and death.

Tedros said that while more than 1.2 billion COVID-19 vaccines have been administered globally, the average immunization rate in poor countries is about 13 percent.

“If rich countries are vaccinating children from as young as 6 months old and planning to do further rounds of vaccination, it is incomprehensible to suggest that lower-income countries should not vaccinate and boost their most at risk (people),” he said.

According to figures compiled by Oxfam and the People's Vaccine Alliance, fewer than half of the 2.1 billion vaccines promised to poorer countries by the Group of Seven large economies have been delivered.

Earlier this month, the United States authorized COVID-19 vaccines for infants and preschoolers, rolling out a national immunization plan targeting 18 million of the youngest children. American regulators also recommended that some adults get updated boosters in the fall that match the latest coronavirus variants.

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France’s new wave of COVID-19 infections expected to peak end of July

A new wave in France of COVID-19 infections fueled by emerging variants of the disease should peak toward end-July, the French government’s top scientific adviser Jean-Francois Delfraissy said on Thursday.
“The peak is not yet here, this peak of infections will probably be for end-July,” Delfraissy told RTL radio.
“Then the BA.5 variant will reappear, if it is not overtaken by another variant… in autumn,” he added.
For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.
France reported new 124,724 coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, against 77,967 a week ago.
The French government also recommended this week that people should start wearing face masks again in crowded areas, especially in public transport, to counter the latest surge in COVID-19 cases.
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Shanghai Disneyland theme park re-opens after three-month COVID-19 closure 

More than a thousand visitors streamed in on Thursday as Walt Disney Co’s Shanghai Disney Resort theme park opened after a closure of three months, with face masks and social distancing the order of the day.
The park shut on March 21 as cases rose in the Chinese business hub, leading to a two-month-long citywide lockdown that eased on June 1. Just over a week later, the resort began opening some areas, with the theme park the last to re-open.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

Among the first of Thursday's visitors was Zhang Yudong, a 19-year-old student wearing a Mickey Mouse wizard hat and T-shirt donned for the occasion.
“It really feels like coming back home. I was so excited,” said Zhang, who holds a Disneyland annual pass. “I had been looking forward to the day. One question I would ask everyday is, ‘When will it reopen?’”
Before its March closure, the park had enforced COVID-19 measures required by the authorities, such as face masks and regular disinfection.
After the re-opening, it requires guests to show proof of a negative COVID test taken within the last 72 hours, in line with rules for public areas in Shanghai and other cities.
The park has also said it will limit capacity, but gave no details, adding that some attractions, such as Marvel Universe, will stay closed.
Shanghai Disneyland is a joint venture with Chinese state-owned Shendi Group, which holds a 57 percent stake.

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