All Shanghai universities in lockdown in COVID-19 wave

All universities and colleges in Shanghai – which has around 30 universities and a similar number of colleges – are in lockdown amid the COVID-19 resurgence in Eastern China, China’s state broadcaster CGTN reported this week. Shanghai and several other areas in China are facing the worst COVID outbreaks since early 2020, mainly due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

Since at least 12 March, students and staff at universities and colleges in Shanghai – affecting tens of thousands of students – have been unable to leave campus as mass testing is rolled out. Schools and universities have been the source of outbreaks in the past.

Shanghai Jiao Tong University, where some 33 cases of infection were identified early this week, was among the hardest hit in the city with around 30,000 students unable to leave the campus since 9 March and restricted to their own dormitories since 12 March, unable even to use shared bathroom facilities, some students said.

Several smaller university campuses in Shanghai locked down as early as 2 March.

As well as Shanghai, the current outbreak has spread to several dozen cities in 20 provinces, according to China’s National Health Commission. The main hotspots are Jilin – considered the epicentre of the current outbreak with cases reported in the Jilin capital Changchun and Jilin City – and the port city of Qingdao in eastern Shandong province.

Beijing and the southern city of Shenzhen, a technology hub bordering on Hong Kong, have also been affected with smaller numbers of cases.

CGTN showed footage of students holding choral concerts from their dormitory balconies at a Shanghai university campus on Monday as 955 new COVID-19 cases emerged between 1 and 15 March in Shanghai. The city reported nine locally transmitted COVID-19 infections and 130 asymptomatic carriers on Monday, the National Health Commission said on Tuesday.

While these are not large numbers relative to the population, China’s zero-COVID policy has led to immediate shutdowns to stop the spread, and mass testing with residents told not to leave the city unless absolutely necessary. Schools in Shanghai have also been closed and classes moved online.

Since 12 March, those who need to leave Shanghai must provide negative nucleic acid tests taken within 48 hours. The country’s national aviation regulator said on Tuesday that 106 international flights scheduled to arrive in Shanghai will be diverted to other Chinese cities from 21 March until 1 May to “reduce pressure” on the city’s COVID prevention and control measures.

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