Tens of millions under lockdown in China amid rising COVID-19 wave

Residents are locked, welded and even sealed into their own homes and told to rely on online orders of food.
By Qiao Long and Jojo Man
Tens of millions under lockdown in China amid rising COVID-19 wave A worker wearing protective gear stands next to barriers placed to close off streets around a locked down neighbourhood after the detection of new cases of Covid-19 in the Huangpu district of Shanghai, March 21, 2022.

China's latest COVID-19 wave continued to rise on Tuesday, with confirmed and locally transmitted cases in Shanghai rising for the fifth day in a row, as the authorities struggled to contain the highly contagious omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Shanghai has been pressing ahead with the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)'s favored "dynamic zero-COVID" policy, carrying out more than 30 million door-to-door tests.

Officials have turned Shanghai's Zhoupu Hospital into a dedicated COVID-19 facility, a Shanghai resident told RFA.

"Zhoupu Hospital has become an isolation hospital, and everyone has left," he said. "They were given until 12 o'clock to leave, or they would be shut up inside."

An estimated 50 million people had been placed under lockdown in various cities and districts across the country as of last week.

Ji Xiaolong, a resident of Yanlord Garden in Pudong New District, said his residential compound has been locked down for the past four days.

"The iron gates are locked and blocked with metal guardrails, and the iron sheets have been welded together," Ji told RFA. "Nobody in the compound, which is two or three thousand people, is able to leave."

"We have been locked down for four days," he said. "There are foreigners who want to get out, but they can't."

A man is tested as a measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus near the Shanghai Jin'an Central Hospital in Shanghai, March 21, 2022. Credit: AFP
A man is tested as a measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus near the Shanghai Jin'an Central Hospital in Shanghai, March 21, 2022. Credit: AFP
Stretched medical resources

A Shanghai resident surnamed Feng said there are now barriers to people seeking medical attention.

"Shanghai's medical resources are close to collapse," she said. "They're not taking COVID-19 patients at the hospitals now."

"There was an 80-year-old patient with complications and a high fever, which is very dangerous, but the hospital wouldn't take them," Feng said.

"I called the center for disease control and prevention, and they said I wouldn't be able to get them into a hospital."

Meanwhile, tens of millions of people remain under strict lockdown as the local government tries to eliminate an outbreak in the northeastern province of Jilin.

Video footage from Jilin showed truck drivers being isolated in their cabs, or diners isolated on the spot at restaurants or other businesses temporarily requisitioned for quarantine or isolation purposes, including convenience stores, inside private cars, grocery stores, and even hospitals.

A resident of the northeastern port city of Dalian surnamed Liu, said partial lockdowns are also being imposed there, too.

"We are all under lockdown, with seals pasted on the door," Liu told RFA. "The local residential committee members say that we will have to order takeout if we need to buy food."

"Then, they break the seal on your door and deliver the food, before pasting a seal back on again," she said.

Jilin lockdown

In all, 2,281 newly confirmed, locally transmitted cases were reported in China on Monday, compared with 1,947 a day earlier, the National Health Commission said, with the majority clustered in Jilin.

Transportation links in and out of the province have been shut down, as well as intraregional trips, with residents only allowed to travel if given prior approval by the authorities.

Cases in the provincial capital Changchun have also risen for five days straight, and the city authorities have suspended indoor shopping for three days, calling on residents to order online instead.

Meanwhile, police in the northern city of Sanhe are investigating 15 people who failed to submit to mass testing without a legitimate reason, city authorities said.

Government censors also appear to be deleting online comment criticizing the CCP's COVID-19 policy, with financial blogger Liu Haiying's article questioning the economic impact of the zero-COVID policy removed from Weibo on Monday.

Liu, who has more than 340,000 followers, had complained that a two-week lockdown could cost a Chinese city around 32 percent of its GDP growth for the month, pointing to slowing economic growth around the world.

"Almost 100 percent of the economic cost of fighting the epidemic is borne by the private sector," Liu's post said. "Countless families and tens of millions of small and micro enterprises have countless stories of sweat and tears, but there is no place to publish them."

"It's impossible for China to maintain zero-COVID because it needs to have dealings with other countries," he wrote, in an article that garnered more than 2,000 likes before it disappeared.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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