© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A courier in protective suit delivers to a residential complex in the middle of the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Shanghai, China, April 23, 2022. REUTERS / Brenda Goh / File Photo
By Brenda Goh and Jacqueline Wong
SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Shanghai authorities fighting an outbreak of COVID-19 have erected fences outside residential buildings, triggering a new public outcry over a closure that has forced a large portion of the city’s 25 million people indoors.
Pictures of white hazmat-costume-clad workers sealing entrances to apartment blocks and closing off entire streets with approximately two-meter-high green fences went viral on social media, prompting questions and complaints from residents.
“This is so disrespectful to people’s rights inside, by using metal barriers to enclose them as pets,” said a user on the social media platform Weibo (NASDAQ :).
A video showed residents shouting from balconies at workers trying to put up fences before giving in and taking it away. Other videos showed people trying to pull fences down.
“Is not this a fire hazard?” asked another Weibo user.
Many of the fences were erected around areas designated as “sealed areas” – buildings where at least one person has tested positive for COVID-19, meaning residents are prohibited from leaving their front doors.
It was not clear what prompted the authorities to resort to fencing. A statement dated Saturday from a local authority shared online said it imposed “harsh quarantine” in some areas.
Reuters was unable to verify the authenticity of the order or all the photos, but saw green fences on a street in central Shanghai on Sunday.
In recent days, Reuters has also seen police in hazmat suits patrolling the streets of Shanghai, setting up roadblocks and asking pedestrians to return home.
The Shanghai government did not respond to a request for comment.
China’s most populous city and main economic hub is fighting the country’s largest COVID-19 outbreak with a policy that is forcing all positive cases into quarantine centers.
The closure, which for many residents has lasted over three weeks, has fueled frustration over lost wages, family separation and quarantine, as well as access to medical care and food.
Supermarket Freshippo, backed up Ali Baba (NYSE 🙂 Group Holding Ltd said on Sunday that they added couriers to meet demand in the city.
The shutdown has also dragged on the world’s second-largest economy, with factory production disrupted by tight-knit supply chains and difficulties facing closed residents returning to work.
Shanghai conducts daily COVID-19 tests in the city and accelerates the transfer of positive cases to key facilities to eradicate virus transmission outside quarantine areas.
In the past week, authorities have also transferred entire communities, including uninfected people, and said they need to disinfect their homes, according to residents and social media.
Many residents have turned to the Internet to comment on the shutdown and express dissent using euphemisms and other means to combat government censors, who often remove content that is critical of authorities.
Videos of “Do You Hear The People Sing?”, A protest anthem from “Les Miserables”, have been widely re-broadcast, and the title of the French musical received over 90 million mentions on WeChat on Saturday, the chat app’s data showed.
Shanghai reported 39 COVID-19 deaths on April 23, up from 12 a day earlier and by far the most during the current outbreak.
It did not report any deaths in the first few weeks, raising doubts among residents about the numbers. It has since reported 87 deaths, all within the last seven days.
The city registered 19,657 new locally transmitted asymptomatic cases, against 20,634 the day before, and 1,401 symptomatic against 2,736.
Cases outside quarantine areas totaled 280 from 218 the day before. Other cities that have been under lockdown began easing restrictions when cases hit zero.
China has largely managed to keep COVID-19 in check after the first outbreak in Wuhan in late 2019 with a “dynamic zero” policy aimed at eradicating infection chains.
That approach has been challenged by the proliferation of the highly contagious but less deadly Omicron variant, which has prompted cities to impose different levels of movement restrictions.
Nationwide, China reported 20,285 new asymptomatic coronavirus cases for Saturday, up from 21,423 a day earlier, with 1,580 symptomatic cases against 2,988.
Beijing registered 22 new COVID-19 cases – all locally transmitted – compared to six the day before, prompting a number of fitness centers and leisure-time providers to suspend personal lessons.