Videos with people they are being pulled out of their homes by security workers in protective suits held on Chinese social media on Sunday before being removed on some platforms as the blockade in Shanghai enters its seventh week and pandemic restrictions continue to intensify in Beijing.
Videos that allegedly showed how patients with Covid-19 and their close contacts struggle with workers appear when Shanghai intensifies some aspects of its intensive closure despite a reduction in new infections.
According to locals and widespread messages on social media, people living in the same building with confirmed cases of the virus are now also at risk of being transported to state quarantine facilities. Previously, only people who lived in the same apartment or on the same floor with positive cases were likely to be considered close contacts and placed in official quarantine.
The curb build-up is happening even when the city reported the lowest number of cases in more than six weeks: 3,947 new infections on Sunday, just under 3,975 on Saturday.
Posts on social networks questioning the legality of forcibly removing people from their homes and taking them to quarantine facilities, or confiscating keys so that health workers can disinfect apartments, were in some cases also removed.
In one unverified video, which is still available for viewing on some platforms, two “Big Whites” appeared – as well-known medical workers enforcing China’s closure and Covid rules – distracting a woman who kicks and screams in an apartment building.
Another unverified video posted on WeChat shows how “Big White” uses a loudspeaker to warn residents to stay home, saying that if one person living in the building is positive, everyone living in the same building will be considered close contacts and sent to state isolation.
Other videos showing workers in security suits knocking on apartment doors and taking residents out to quarantine seem to have been removed.
China’s Covid Zero policy requires that all cases and their close contacts be isolated in government agencies as a way to prevent transmission. The strategy was effective for eliminating Covid at the start of the pandemic, but it is challenged by more transmissible options such as Omicron.
The country’s constant implementation of the strategy makes it increasingly isolated, while other parts of the world are dismantling the curbs of the pandemic and living next to the virus, making the scenes in China even tougher.
Shanghai’s experience highlighted Covid Zero’s weaknesses: food and medicine supplies were disrupted at the very beginning of the blockade, and factories were shut down by a shortage of workers and materials. China, which tightly controls its Internet, has consistently censored messages protesting against the blockade.
The fight against the pandemic is hitting China’s economy, with export growth being the weakest since June 2020.
Other sites have slowly abandoned Covid Zero in the face of more contagious options, and the U.S. and UK have never sought to eliminate the virus. Taiwan has held out for a long time, but is moving forward on easing and recovery, despite reports of more than 40,000 new cases on Saturday and Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Chinese capital has so far avoided citywide closures, but continues to tighten restrictions to prevent new cases, which fell to 49 from 62 on Saturday.
On Sunday, officials told all residents of Beijing’s Chaoyang district, where embassies and offices of multinational companies, including Apple and Alibaba Group, work from home. It came after an order to close some businesses that provide insignificant services, such as gyms and movie theaters, in the county to minimize infection.
While a number of Chinese cities other than Shanghai remain under blockade or other kinds of restrictions, the northeastern city of Jilin has reported its first infection-free day in the community since early March, the Xinhua state news agency reported. The wider province of Jinlin, bordering North Korea and Russia, is slowly coming out of closures across the province, which began in mid-March, and cases of easing.
Over the weekend, Premier Li Keqiang warned of a “difficult and serious” employment situation amid blockades and an intense response to Covid.
Lee instructed all government departments and regions to prioritize measures to help businesses retain jobs and overcome current difficulties, a statement said Saturday night, citing the prime minister’s comments at a nationwide teleconference on employment. – (c) 2022 Bloomberg LP