Dystopia: Drone warns desperate locked-down Shanghai residents to "control your soul’s desire for freedom"

Imagine how jealous Fauci was when he was told about this.

The stress of being under what’s now an indefinite lockdown has led people in Shanghai to seek whatever meager relief is available, sometimes in familiar ways. Remember in the early days of the pandemic how New Yorkers under lockdown amid a frightening outbreak would open their windows and sing? That was a small gesture of humanity to connect with others at a moment of historic isolation.

Shanghaiers are doing it too:

The human spirit longs to be free, particularly when it can’t venture beyond its own front door.

But freedom has always been a threat to the Chinese Communist Party, which led to this surreal scene last night:

Warning people not to sing because it’s too evocative of freedom is totalitarian. Having a drone warn them not to do it is next-level Orwellian.

It’s also another step in the Black-Mirror-fication of China. If you know the series, you’ve probably seen the episode(s) in which the state “grades” citizens via a social-credit system. China has that. You’ve probably also seen the one in which robot dogs hunt down and annihilate dissidents. Beijing hasn’t reached that point yet — but they’re getting there.

Even if you manage to evade the canine robocop in your quest for freedom, China’s extensive use of facial recognition technology means you’ll be spotted, recognized, and punished eventually. Resistance is futile.

Because Shanghai is so economically important to China, businesses there are doing whatever possible to keep workers on the job, especially in the financial sector. That means being locked down at work with your co-workers so that you can keep processing transactions. (“Some colleagues took to waking as early as 5 a.m. to get access to the office shower before other colleagues.”) Some employees were given a choice by their boss, with the promise of extra pay if they accepted. They’re now camped out by their desks in tents and sleeping bags. Others didn’t have an option:

While some were able to plan their live-in arrangements at work, other office workers had less notice.

Yan Yuejin, a property analyst in Shanghai, found himself unexpectedly sequestered with his colleagues in the office early last month after authorities found positive cases in the vicinity. More than 2,000 staff working in three buildings in the area were shut indoors for seven days and tested frequently, he said.

“When it gets to 8:00 and 9:00 at night, people start changing into slippers and pajamas. The next thing you know, you are brushing your teeth next to your boss. It’s so awkward,” the 38-year-old said.

The only progress that appears to have been made on conditions inside the city is the repeal of its atrocious family-separation policy, a rare case of Chinese authorities changing course due to a public outcry. Uninfected parents will now be allowed to accompany their infected children to quarantine provided that they acknowledge the risk in writing and observe certain basic safety measures, like wearing masks, eating separately from their child, and not sharing personal items. That … might marginally reduce the risk of a parent becoming infected, I guess? Never mind that the air in a centralized quarantined facility is destined to be filthy with COVID germs.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a COVID mystery is building. The Far East, including “zero COVID” China, has seen a burst of infection from Omicron’s BA.2 variant. So has Europe, with England now recording record-high infections, amazingly. But in the U.S., there’s barely a trace of any BA.2 wave. Cases in the northeast are up a bit, but nationally hospitalizations and ICU admissions for COVID are at their lowest point of the entire pandemic. What gives? How have we so far avoided the sort of wave so many other countries are straining under? David Leonhardt wonders:

Even though the U.S. has a lower vaccination rate than Western Europe, this country may still have built up more immunity — thanks to our politically polarized response to the virus.

In liberal parts of the U.S., vaccination rates can be even higher than in Europe. In conservative communities, many Americans have been so dismissive of Covid that they have long been living almost normally. As a result, the virus has already swept through these communities, conferring at least some immunity on many people.

This laissez-faire approach has had horrible downsides. Covid death rates have been much higher in counties that voted for Donald Trump than those that voted for Joe Biden. But for people who survived a prior Covid infection, it does confer some immune protection, especially if it was recent.

Have we reached a degree of herd immunity that other countries haven’t? That’s hard to believe, as the UK has had more cases per capita since the start of the pandemic than we’ve had and also has a higher vaccination rate. Yet the alternate explanation, that we actually *are* experiencing a BA.2 wave but we’re not seeing it in the data because no one’s getting tested anymore, is also hard to swallow. If there’s a “hidden wave” of BA.2 happening, why haven’t hospitalizations begun to rise?

As you ponder that, watch this solid recap of the insanity in Shanghai from CNN. If you haven’t been following news of the lockdown there, it’ll catch you up quickly. Note especially the case of a man taking a walk — outdoors, on the grounds of his own apartment complex — who’s quickly ushered back inside due to some hypothetical threat he poses by simply not being inside his apartment. Americans have experienced lockdown but they haven’t experienced this.