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Volunteer Workers Assisting Shanghai in Pandemic Controls Accused by Authorities of Bringing COVID Home

A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights' related issues, politics, tech and society.
Published: April 14, 2022
A health worker waits in the street wearing protective clothing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he waits to do a routine patient transfer during evening rush hour on April 12, 2022 in Beijing, China. (Image: Kevin Frayer via Getty Images)

Shanghai continues to record over 20,000 new infections daily since the beginning of April, putting severe pressure on the regime as it presses on with its “Zero-COVID” campaign. The current lockdown has persisted since late March. 

On April 12, Shanghai recorded 22,342 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the city’s total infection count to around 227,000 since March 1. 

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As China’s financial capital continues to bear the brunt of new infections, the Chinese government has deployed tens of thousands of workers and special task forces from other provinces and regions to assist health workers in bringing the new outbreak under control.

Now, reports are surfacing on social media as volunteer workers describe how they are not allowed to return home due to local authorities’ concerns that they could have been infected with the virus while helping in Shanghai.

Forced to live on a bus for two weeks

A netizen from the province of Jiangsu, which borders Shanghai, posted on Twitter on April 11 that workers from Nanjing city were being sent east to Shanghai and ordered to help build makeshift COVID hospitals. According to the post, the government had ordered state-company China Construction Second Engineering Bureau LTD to send hundreds of workers from other regions to help in the construction. 

“More than 5,000 people were ordered to work all day and night in order to complete the construction of a makeshift hospital in Shanghai’s National Exhibition and Convention Center. The facility has a capacity of 50,000 beds,” the netizen said. 

When the first batch of workers returned to their home in Nanjing, four of them were found to have tested positive for COVID-19, but were asymptomatic. The Nanjing authorities panicked, and told the rest of the workers that they would not be allowed to return home out of fear that they had contracted the virus while volunteering, the netizen described. 

“Hundreds of people did not know what to do. They were forcefully quarantined inside buses for two weeks, eating and sleeping on those buses. Many broke down in tears,” another netizen wrote.  

After this story broke, it quickly went viral across China’s social media, with outraged netizens commenting on how bad the situation in Shanghai is. 

“It’s really inhumane,” one user said. 

“Never help [the government] in building makeshift hospitals in other regions. The result is that workers will likely never get paid or be allowed to return home,” another said. 

Community workers browse their mobile phone on temporary beds inside a gym during the lockdown in Shanghai’s Pudong district on April 13, 2022. (Image: LIU JIN/AFP via Getty Images)

One netizen drew comparisons between what the workers are going through and the situation that took place in Wuhan when the pandemic first began. “It has been two years, and they are sending workers to do the same thing now.” 

Since the lockdowns commenced on March 28, reports have emerged of unattended infants and young children left crying in quarantine centers after being forcibly separated from their parents — a policy the city’s government has defended

Shocking videos and pictures posted on social media have also shown desperate residents screaming out of their windows and balconies as the lockdown wears on. In some cases, people are driven over the edge and are seen jumping off from rooftops as food and essentials run out and they have no way of procuring more.