A medical worker checks paperwork at a makeshift hospital in Shanghai, China. AP
Shanghai reported 39 Covid deaths on Sunday, official data showed, its highest daily toll since a weeks-long lockdown started, while China's capital Beijing warned of a "grim" situation with rising infections.
Shanghai authorities battling an outbreak of COVID-19 have erected mesh barriers outside some residential buildings, sparking fresh public outcry over a lockdown that has forced much of the city's 25 million people to stay home.
Images of white hazmat suit-clad workers sealing entrances of housing blocks and even closing off entire streets with roughly two metre-tall green fencing went viral on social media on Saturday, prompting questions and complaints from residents.
Residents line up for nucleic acid tests during a lockdown in Shanghai, China. Reuters
"This is so disrespectful of the rights of the people inside, using metal barriers to enclose them like domestic animals," said one user on social media platform Weibo.
The world's second-largest economy has been struggling to stamp out its worst Covid-19 outbreak in two years with a playbook of harsh lockdowns and mass testing as it sticks to a strict zero-Covid policy, taking a heavy toll on businesses and public morale.
The cosmopolitan business hub of Shanghai has been almost entirely locked down since the start of the month, snarling supply chains, with many residents confined to their homes for even longer as it became the epicentre of the outbreak.
China's biggest city only announced its first fatalities on April 18, despite reporting thousands of cases each day in recent weeks.
It reported 39 more deaths on Sunday, National Health Commission data showed, bringing its total toll to 87, while the country logged nearly 22,000 new local virus cases.
A worker sprays disinfectant on a truck in Shanghai, China, on Friday. AP
Shanghai, China's largest city and most important economic hub, is battling the country's biggest-ever COVID-19 outbreak with a elimination policy that seeks to test, trace and force all positive cases into central quarantine facilities.
The lockdown, which for many residents has lasted over three weeks, has fuelled frustration over access to food and medical care, lost wages, family separation, conditions in quarantine, and censorship of efforts to vent online.
Health official Pang Xinghuo said preliminary observations suggested Covid had been "spreading invisibly" within the capital for a week now, affecting "schools, tour groups and many families".
"The risk of continued and hidden transmission is high, and the situation is grim," Tian Wei of Beijing's Municipal Party Committee told a press briefing.
"The whole city of Beijing must act immediately."
Esper's comments come at a time when some US officials have blamed China for the coronavirus outbreak. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday Washington had evidence the disease emerged from a Chinese lab, which Beijing strongly denies.
As of 1825 GMT on Friday, at least 2,000,066 people worldwide had been confirmed dead of the virus that first emerged in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, according to an AFP tally.
The daily number of new coronavirus infections in France stayed above 20,000 on average for the fourth straight day on Tuesday, while hospitalisations reached an eight-week high of 27,041.
The head of the World Health Organization-led team in the central Chinese city of Wuhan probing the origins of COVID-19 said on Tuesday that cold chain transmission of the virus is a possibility and warrants further investigation.
The multi-millionaire ex-Chancellor and his wife Akshata Murty were last year granted planning permission to build a swimming pool, gym and an adjoining tennis court on farmland at the manor house.
Asad Kaleem, an executive producer at ARY, said that the action means that 4,000 employees at the TV are now without work. He pleaded with the government to reverse its decision and bring the hugely popular ARY back on air.
The cabinet shake-up, which was approved by parliament in an emergency session, affected 13 portfolios, including health, education, culture, local development and irrigation ministries.