US authorizes ‘voluntary departure’ of non-emergency staff from Shanghai

Washington, Apr 8 (EFE).- The United States Friday authorized the “voluntary departure” of non-emergency staff at its Shanghai consulate, recommending Americans not to travel to China due to harsh Covid-19 restrictions.

The State Department said the family members of emergency and non-emergency US government employees were allowed to leave the consulate in the commercial capital of China due to a surge in coronavirus cases and the impact of restrictions.

“The zero-tolerance approach to Covid-19 by the PRC (People’s Republic of China) and Hong Kong governments severely impacts travel and access to public services,” a State Department statement said.

The statement said the Chinese “government arbitrarily enforces local laws, including carrying out arbitrary and wrongful detentions and using exit bans on US citizens and citizens of other countries without due process of law.”

It said China was doing that to “compel individuals to participate in (Chinese) government investigations.”

The State Department also alleged that such tactics were also used by the authorities to “pressure family members to return to China from abroad, influence Chinese authorities to resolve civil disputes in favor of Chinese citizens, and gain bargaining leverage over foreign governments.”

The State Department reported it in its security notice for travelers to China, recommending “not to travel” to Hong Kong, the province of Jilin, and the municipality of Shanghai, because of the restrictions risks, including separating parents and children.

The statement mentioned that children in Hong Kong who test positive have been separated from their parents and kept in isolation until they meet local hospital discharge requirements.

In a briefing on Friday, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said the Joe Biden administration closely monitored the coronavirus lockdown in Shanghai.

“The State Department is closely monitoring the situation. They are providing consistent updates on the situation on the ground. And we will certainly assess, with USAID and others, if there is additional assistance that could be provided,” Psaki told reporters.

Asked about the Shanghai curbs that could cause a supply chain disruption, she said the port continued to operate normally.

“And where we are seeing the impacts — which still could have an impact over time, of course — are factories, warehouses, and trucking, where we are seeing shutdowns within the region, which we know could cause delays, especially for air cargo, as well.”

She said because it was just happening, the White House did not have a prediction at this point on how that could impact global supply chain issues.

“It depends on a lot of factors — how long, et cetera — but it is something we are closely monitoring, and it is something we will continue to work to — to address if it extends farther.”

China, which still enforces a zero-Covid approach, is battling its worst wave of infections since the pandemic began two years ago.

Shanghai, its largest city, has been under total or partial lockdown for two weeks, with some 25 million people ordered to stay at home.

The virus has claimed two lives and infected thousands, with more than 20,000 asymptomatic daily infections in recent days.

The government has imposed harsh restrictions, closed the borders, and confined entire cities, including Shanghai. EFE


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