The U.S. government ordered all non-emergency staff at its Shanghai consulate and their families to leave the Chinese city due to a surge in Covid cases and lockdown measures imposed on the financial hub.
The State Department mandated the departures Monday, according to a post on its website, as most of Shanghai’s 25 million residents were subject to tight movement restrictions that keep them in their homes or compounds. “The United States has no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas, including Mission China’s personnel and their families,” a U.S. embassy spokesperson said in a statement.
The order came days after Washington said all non-emergency employees and their family members from the U.S. consulate in Shanghai were allowed to leave, and told Americans to reconsider travel to China due to what it calls an “arbitrary enforcement” of virus restrictions.
“Our change in posture reflects our assessment that it is best for our employees and their families to be reduced in number and our operations to be scaled down as we deal with the changing circumstances on the ground,” the spokesperson added, noting that staffers and their relatives would leave on commercial flights. The departure order will be reviewed in 30-day intervals.
The U.S. ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, and other officials have raised concerns about the safety and welfare of American citizens in the country with Chinese officials, the spokesperson said, and informed Beijing of the departure order.
Shanghai is struggling to stop transmission in the worst Covid outbreak in China in two years, with control measures weighing on the world’s second-largest economy and beginning to disrupt global supply chains. There were 23,342 cases in the city Monday, a drop from Sunday’s record, but still up from about 5,000 just two weeks ago.
China has defended its measures to curb the outbreak and expressed displeasure with the U.S. over what it calls a “groundless accusation” of Chinese pandemic policies, even as cases in Shanghai continued to spread despite an extensive lockdown.