“It was not clear what prompted authorities to resort to fencing,” said Reuters, reporting on China’s latest “zero COVID” innovation.
This reeks of something local officials felt obliged to do not because they expect it to limit transmission but because they’re desperate to show their bosses in Beijing how committed they are to the policy. Xi Jinping has staked his and the country’s prestige on controlling the virus to prove that Chinese totalitarianism delivers better results than western liberalism. The commissars in Shanghai may be grasping for a way to signal their loyalty. Result: Fences around buildings where at least one resident has tested positive.
“This is so disrespectful of the rights of the people inside, using metal barriers to enclose them like domestic animals,” one Chinese social media about the new measure, per Reuters. Another wondered if it isn’t a fire hazard. Oh well.
— Caleb Leal (@calebleal92) April 23, 2022
In order to stop people from migrating, the Chinese government is building iron fences and iron walls on roads and in front of houses. @TGTM_Official #CCP #China #lockdown #HumanRights #shanghai #CCPvirus #CCPLiedPeopleDied #COVID19 #大翻译运动 #TheGreatTranslationMovement pic.twitter.com/g3PaQAiei7
— 如月佑子 (@ruyueyouzi) April 23, 2022
The CCP has decided to step up efforts to lock everyone inside their buildings.
They only care about proudly showing off the “0 covid policy” to western countries.
— Democratic Comrade (@CubyQB) April 23, 2022
It’s not going over well. This tweet translates to “Angry Shanghai residents tore down the hard-to-separate barbed wire.”
— iPaul🇨🇦🇺🇦 (@iPaulCanada) April 23, 2022
If it’s any consolation to them, some have it worse:
New footage of police in Shanghai drilling doors shut at a restaurant so nobody can leave. This is nuts.
Sound On pic.twitter.com/fA5iHL7hrH
— Wall Street Silver (@WallStreetSilv) April 24, 2022
To live in Shanghai right now is to risk being told at any moment that you have to evacuate your home. If you test positive, it’s off to a dingy quarantine facility; if you don’t test positive, the fact that a neighbor has means you could be uprooted and shipped out of the city as collateral damage.
Videos circulated widely on Chinese social media this week showing busloads of people being taken to quarantine, at times outside Shanghai. In one account told to the Guardian, thousands of non-Covid-positive residents in the upmarket Xuhui district were told to relocate out of Shanghai so their area could be disinfected. The move confused and angered residents…
Resident Zhang Chen, 30, told Reuters her four-year-old son and his 84-year-old grandmother were taken to quarantine on Sunday, along with her inlaws, and she was worried poor conditions in the facility might affect their health.
She said meals lacked nutrition (breakfast is two slices of toast), the building was dusty and only partly renovated, there were no showers and too few toilets. “They are patients, not criminals. But here it’s like they’re criminals, and being sent off to suffer,” Zhang said.
Weeks after the lockdown began, there’s no end in sight. City officials actually tightened restrictions on movement in the past few days, which may explain the new fencing. Deaths keep climbing even so, tripling in the past week. The official number yesterday was 39, which is remarkably low for a city of 26 million in the grip of an Omicron outbreak. But there’s a reason for that: China only counts COVID as a cause of death if the victim had no underlying health conditions. It doesn’t matter if the virus exacerbated those conditions, turning them from manageable to fatal. In China, you’re presumed to have died “with” COVID rather than “of” COVID unless there’s strong evidence to the contrary.
Just 15 percent of Shanghai residents over the age of 80 are vaccinated. Only 62 percent of those over 60 are. In light of the way China counts COVID deaths, imagine how many elderly people there might be dying every day yet remain conveniently unaccounted for in official statistics.
The way Shanghai officials are counting cases is more dubious still. Reportedly people who test positive are deemed “asymptomatic” so long as they don’t show evidence of pneumonia in lung scans. Coughing, fever, aches, chills — all the standard symptoms of COVID with which you and I are familiar don’t qualify as “symptoms” in Shanghai. “This way of classifying asymptomatic cases conflicts with China’s past national guidelines,” says the AP, accusing apparatchiks there of cooking the books.
How many people are truly symptomatic is anyone’s guess. But a safe bet is “a lot”:
A Covid Cabin Hospital in Shanghai,
transformed from a business tower. pic.twitter.com/nYpc7PD1iE
— Tong Bingxue 仝冰雪 (@tongbingxue) April 20, 2022
The grim punchline to China trying to move mountains in Shanghai in the name of “zero COVID” is that … there’s now an outbreak in Beijing too. Just 22 cases were recorded today but residents of the capital are understandably terrified, knowing that a Shanghai-style lockdown awaits if the city can’t stamp out transmission quickly. Locals are thinking ahead:
I was obviously too late to the supermarkets for vegetables.😖 Beijing is requiring 3 #COVID19 tests this week for the 3.45mn of us who work and live in its biggest district. #China capital reported 22 new cases Sat. pic.twitter.com/tXNi1orX0i
— Eunice Yoon (@onlyyoontv) April 24, 2022
The announcement of mass testing in Yoon’s district set off “panic buying” in supermarkets across the area, says the AP. Shanghai’s starvation problem may soon be Beijing’s starvation problem. Meanwhile, nationally, retail sales and industrial production are down and unemployment is up as “zero COVID” grinds the country’s economic engine to a halt. No end in sight.