COVID restrictions in Shanghai have again been tightened after authorities announced today, May 9, that the city’s prolonged lockdown and restrictions that have lasted over a month would continue through at least the month of May.
The Shanghai government on April 20 had announced that certain restrictions would be lifted and an estimated 4 million people would be allowed to leave their homes after weeks of being confined inside with dwindling supplies of food and water.
The stringent lockdowns in Shanghai have fueled a myriad of tragedy and violence as some people jump off rooftops after reaching their breaking point, and others have reportedly even starved to death after completely running out of food, and unable to obtain more.
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According to the local authorities, movement curbs will generally remain through the month of May due to fears of a rebound, even though case numbers have been falling. Some districts issued notices ordering people back into their residential compounds after having let them out for brief walks or quick shopping.
As the citywide lockdown enters its sixth week, many residents have repeatedly complained of shortages of food and essential supplies as well as a lack of access to life-saving medicine for those seeking treatment for anything other than COVID-19. Many have also said that the government’s “zero-COVID” policies have resulted in “total chaos” and revealed deep dysfunctions within its governmental bodies.
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“It is like a prison,” said Coco Wang, a Shanghai resident living under the new restrictions. “We are not afraid of the virus. We are afraid of this policy.”
In a video shared widely on Chinese social media, police in white hazmat suits are seen clashing and arguing with residents who were told they needed to be quarantined again after a neighbor tested positive for the virus.
The police officers are then chased down a narrow staircase where a violent altercation ensues as residents refuse to be kept inside the building.
Beijing steps up testing
Meanwhile, authorities in Beijing also announced today that daily mass testing would be necessary in order to avoid a similar fate to that of Shanghai’s.
In the most severe restrictions imposed on China’s capital so far, a populated district in the city’s southwest was told that all residents would be prohibited from leaving their residential compounds, and ordered all activities not related to virus prevention to halt until further notice.
Last week, Beijing announced the closure of gyms and entertainment venues, banned dine-in services at restaurants and shops, and ordered the closure of most public transportation routes, including almost 15 percent of its sprawling subway system.
“It is quite strange,” said a 50-year-old Beijing resident surnamed Ding, as he took a photo of an empty street leading into a closed subway station. “It is the first time in all my years in Beijing that I see empty streets in the middle of summer,” Ding, who only gave his surname in fear of retaliation from the government, told Reuters.
In other virus-hit districts of Beijing, residents have been told to work from home and avoid leaving their neighborhoods unless absolutely necessary. The government also ordered additional roads, compounds and parks to be sealed off this week.
‘Outbreak has truly unsettled everyone’
Essential businesses that were allowed to remain open were not seeing many clients as many people opted to stay home in fear of testing positive and being forced into mass quarantine facilities.
“North of us are malls and offices that have been sealed, and their apps might mark them as close contacts if they came,” said a barber surnamed Song, referring to the mobile monitoring software all residents in China must use.
“This outbreak has truly unsettled everyone,” Song said.
In efforts to keep track of every citizen’s health status, everyone in China is required to have a mobile phone reflecting their COVID status.
People with green health codes are allowed to travel freely. Those with yellow or red codes are not allowed to visit public places such as supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, and so on. The affected individual has to then report all close contacts to health authorities, undergo quarantine and several nucleic acid tests before they can be cleared and given a green status again.
Those who test positive, however, even if they aren’t showing any symptoms or require medical care, are taken away by pandemic staff to government facilitated quarantine sites, and told to remain there until they test negative.