New public outcry as Shanghai closes off Covid-hit areas

Authorities in Shanghai battling a COVID-19 outbreak have erected fences outside residential buildings, prompting fresh public outcry over a lockdown that has forced much of the city’s 25 million people city ​​inside.

Beijing’s largest district, meanwhile, will require anyone living or working in the area to take three COVID tests this week and put more than a dozen buildings on lockdown after the Chinese capital reported 22 new cases on Saturday. . The district, Chaoyang, is home to 3.45 million people.

In Shanghai, images of workers in white coveralls sealing off building entrances and closing off entire streets with green fences – around two meters high – have gone viral on social media, prompting questions and complaints from the public. from the inhabitants.

“It’s so disrespectful of the rights of the people inside, to use metal barriers to lock them up like pets,” said a user of social media platform Weibo.

Video showed residents shouting from balconies at workers trying to put up fencing. The workers gave in and took it away. Other videos showed people trying to knock down fences.

“Isn’t that a fire hazard?” asked another Weibo user.

Numerous fences have been erected around compounds designated “sealed areas” – buildings where at least one person has tested positive for COVID-19, meaning residents are prohibited from leaving their front door.

It is not known what prompted the authorities to resort to fencing. A notice dated Saturday from a local authority shared online said it was imposing a “hard quarantine” in some areas.

Reuters was unable to verify the authenticity of the notice or any images, but saw a green fence on a street in central Shanghai on Sunday.

In recent days, Reuters has also seen police in hazmat suits patrolling the streets of Shanghai, erecting roadblocks and asking pedestrians to go home.

The Shanghai government did not respond to a request for comment.

MISERY

Shanghai is China’s most populous city and most important economic center. It is battling the country’s biggest COVID-19 outbreak since the coronavirus emerged in Wuhan in late 2019 with a policy that forces all positive cases into quarantine centers.

The lockdown, which for many residents lasted more than three weeks, has fueled frustration over lost wages, separation from families and quarantine conditions as well as access to medical care and food .

Supermarket Freshippo, backed by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, said on Sunday it was adding couriers to meet demand in the city.

The lockdown has also weighed on China’s economy, the world’s second largest, with factory production disrupted by tangled supply chains and struggles faced by locked-down residents returning to work.

Shanghai is carrying out daily COVID tests across the city and accelerating the transfer of positive cases to central facilities to eradicate virus transmission outside quarantine areas.

Over the past week, authorities have also relocated entire communities, including uninfected people, saying they must disinfect their homes, according to residents and social media posts.

Many residents have spoken out on the internet about the lockdown and expressed their disagreement, using euphemisms and other means to battle government censors who often remove content critical of the authorities.

Videos of “Do you hear the people singing? ‘, a protest anthem from ‘Les Misérables’, received widespread retweet, with the title of the French musical having received more than 90 million mentions on WeChat on Saturday, according to data from the chat app.

DEATH RATE

Shanghai reported 39 COVID deaths for April 23, up from 12 a day earlier and by far the most during the current outbreak.

It reported no deaths in the first few weeks, fueling doubt among locals about the numbers. It has since reported 87 deaths, all within the past seven days.

The city recorded 19,657 new locally transmitted asymptomatic cases, down from 20,634 the day before, and 1,401 symptomatic, down from 2,736.

Cases outside quarantine areas totaled 280 from 218 the previous day. Other cities that were in lockdown began easing restrictions once cases hit zero.

In Beijing’s Chaoyang district, where authorities have urged people to curtail public activities, residents stocked up on groceries on Sunday night amid fears the lockdown could hit.

A middle-aged resident, who declined to be named, was carrying five large bags of rice and three large bottles of cooking oil among other items in his shopping cart.

“The lockdown could take place in a few days. That’s what people say. But really, we don’t know,” he said.

China has largely succeeded in keeping the coronavirus at bay after the outbreak in Wuhan, with a “dynamic zero” policy aimed at eradicating chains of infection.

This approach has been challenged by the spread of the highly infectious but less deadly variant of Omicron, which has prompted cities to impose varying levels of movement restrictions.

Nationwide, China reported 20,285 new asymptomatic coronavirus cases on Saturday, down from 21,423 a day earlier, with 1,580 symptomatic cases down from 2,988.

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