China grapples with unrest over ‘zero Covid’ lockdown cycle

China has begun relocating entire communities from areas of Shanghai as officials scramble to contain a fresh outbreak of Covid-19 infections.

According to the BBC‘s Shanghai correspondent Robin Brant, “an official notice from local Communist Party officials in an area north of the city includes instructions to move residents to quarantine facilities more than 100 miles away.”

The move has sparked a “storm of complaints” from Shanghai about “zero Covid measures” that “challenge” Beijing’s “attempts to control information”. The guard reported.

Moving, moving, moving

Shanghai enters a fourth week of lockdown but the number of newly confirmed Covid cases continues to rise.

On Monday, China’s most populous city reported 22,248 new infections and three associated deaths — the first Covid deaths recorded in Shanghai since the pandemic began, though experts question the official figures.

“Some 25 million people in Shanghai remain locked down as Chinese authorities try to control the Asian nation’s worst coronavirus outbreak since the first lockdown in Wuhan in early 2020,” German wave (DW) reported.

But the measures have put enormous “pressure on public health facilities and health workers” in the coastal city, a global financial hub, the broadcaster added.

The Communist Party announcement, seen by Brant from the BBC, also reportedly outlined a plan to “relocate people from their homes in Pingwang to neighboring Zhejiang Province, where they will stay for at least a week.” The notice said that “only those who test negative could go,” according to Brant, adding that “it’s not clear why people who test negative are being transferred.”

What is known is that officials “are under a lot of pressure to reduce the risk of transmission and reduce cases to zero,” he added.

But “China’s strict censorship system is struggling” amid a growing backlash over Covid measures, The Guardian reported.

Amid “widespread food shortages, supply shortages and fatal healthcare disruptions,” the government has urged residents to use “positive energy,” the newspaper continued. But “far from inspiring residents to bow to the line, the methods have caused tensions to grow,” with a growing number of social media users criticizing the authorities.

Video footage posted online showing officers cracking down on outspoken citizens has further radicalized many. In video seen by the newspaper, “pandemic workers appear to break into a man’s home to demand that he remove a critical post.”

End of the street?

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Chinese authorities have championed their “zero Covid” approach as the only way to stem deaths and sustain the country’s economic growth. Contrary to the Western “living with the virus” approach, Beijing has claimed to have kept the virus in check centralized management and strict restrictions.

But the “clumsy Shanghai lockdown is testing the ‘zero Covid’ strategy,” he said The economist. Until recently, the city “remained relatively spared from Covid”.

After widespread outbreaks, however, Shanghai authorities “converted several hospitals, gyms, apartment blocks and other venues into central quarantine sites” that now house “tens of thousands of people,” DW said.

Some of these people are said to have stayed there against their will. Health workers “have been filmed beating people or pulling their hair out of their homes,” according to The Economist. And footage from makeshift quarantine centers has shown patients “protesting a lack of food, water and treatment”.

But “the most controversial policy of the authorities was the separation of Covid-positive children from their parents,” the newspaper continued. Videos of “dozens of children, some as young as months old, lying five in a bed caused an uproar” and forced authorities to reverse the policy.

The “human cost” of the lockdown “created frustration and despair,” he said The guard‘s editors, however China’s ‘leaders have no exit strategy’.

“Letting loose the virus now, with low vaccination rates among the elderly and reliance on the less effective domestically made vaccine, would likely result in significant disruption and death,” the paper added.

Echoing that warning, The Economist said that while Shanghai “residents were filmed on their balconies chanting their release,” a “major outbreak in the country could result in millions of deaths.”

“The Shanghai effort may look like a military campaign, but it is to avoid a major war,” the newspaper concluded. China grapples with unrest over ‘zero Covid’ lockdown cycle

Fry Electronics Team

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