The U.S. State Department, on Tuesday, April 12, ordered the departure of all non-emergency Consulate staff and their families from Shanghai, citing the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in the city.
A U.S. statement published by the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in China Tuesday said, “The movement from ‘authorized’ to ‘ordered’ departure means that we are now mandating that certain employees depart Shanghai rather than making this decision voluntary.”
The statement claimed that leaving Shanghai “is the best” for the Shanghai Consulate employees when the Department is dealing “with the changing circumstances on the ground.”
According to the statement, the employees and their families will leave Shanghai on commercial flights.
The U.S. Embassy staff in Beijing will support Shanghai Consulate in providing emergency services to U.S. citizens.
The Department said it would review conditions to reopen the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai after 30 days.
The city recorded a surge in Covid-19 cases, forcing the authorities to impose city-wide lockdowns on its 25 million residents since March 28.
With the extended lockdowns, Shanghai has been experiencing food shortages, putting pressure on the delivery staff.
Amid tight food supply, U.S. consulate employees in Shanghai had helped out seven U.S. Marines. They could not get fresh food due to the city’s restrictions.
Reuters on April 6 cited the staff saying, “Marines have depleted their food and can no longer get delivery.”
The person added, “I know we are all running short on supplies. If you can spare a meal’s worth or two for 7 extra mouths, they’d be very appreciative.”
After that, the Department issued a statement, on April 8, saying they let non-emergency employees leave voluntarily, citing a surge in COVID-19 cases and the impact of restrictions related to the response of China.
Responding to the statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on April 9 said, “We are strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposed to the U.S. side’s groundless accusation against China’s epidemic response policies.”
In the statement on mandatory departure, the U.S. Embassy spokesman said, “Ambassador Burns and other Department and Mission officials have continuously raised our concerns about the safety and welfare of U.S. citizens with People’s Republic of China officials. We have informed the government of the PRC about the ordered departure.”
“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.”