US State Department orders all non-emergency government personnel in Shanghai to leave as Covid surges

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Chinese and American flags flutter near the Bund, before the U.S. trade delegation meets its Chinese counterparts for talks in Shanghai, China, July 30, 2019.

Aly Song | Reuters

The US State Department has ordered all non-emergency government personnel and their family members in Shanghai to leave as Covid surges and told US citizens to reconsider travel to China, according to an announcement dated 11 april.

“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.

“Do not travel to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), Jilin Province and Shanghai Municipality in the PRC due to COVID-19 restrictions, including the risk of separation from parents and children,” the statement read. “Reconsider travel to Hong Kong SAR in the PRC due to arbitrary application of local laws.”

The State Department’s announcement followed the weekend’s announcement by the US Mission to China in Beijing which said non-emergency US government employees and family members of emergency and non-emergency US government employees could leave Shanghai voluntarily.

The United States had issued a travel advisory on April 8 with the same language on warnings about “arbitrary application of local laws” and Covid-19 restrictions.

China is “strongly unhappy” and “strongly opposes” the United States’ “baseless accusation” of China’s Covid policy, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Saturday, according to a CNBC translation of the Chinese statement.

He said the announcement of the voluntary evacuation was the United States’ own decision and that the Chinese side had assisted foreign diplomats and consular staff on Covid-related matters as much as policy allowed.

In recent weeks, mainland China has faced its worst Covid outbreak since the initial phase of the pandemic in early 2020.

While cases have been reported across the country, the northern province of Jilin and the southeastern city of Shanghai are among the hardest hit, with local authorities imposing strict stay-at-home measures and travel restrictions for trying to control epidemics.

Last week, authorities in Shanghai eased quarantine measures that had separated parents from their children. This week, the city announced a step-by-step process to ease the lockdowns.

The city had attempted one of the most targeted Covid control policies to control a spike in cases since late February, but ultimately locked down the city in two stages from late March – in the name of carrying out mass testing.

Shanghai is a hub for many foreign companies in China, while Jilin is home to many automobile factories.

“Employees and their family members will depart on commercial flights,” the U.S. Mission to China said in a separate statement on Tuesday. “The Department ordered the departure due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.”

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