Shanghai is blocking Covid-affected buildings, fueling a new outcry

Resident of a so-called containment building looking out of their balconies on April 24, 2022 in Shanghai, China, as the city battles its worst Covid outbreak since the start of the pandemic.

CFOTO | Future Publishing | Getty Images

Authorities in Shanghai, which is battling an outbreak of Covid-19, have erected network barriers outside some residential buildings, sparking fresh public outcry over a shutdown that has forced a large portion of the city’s 25 million people to stay at home.

Pictures of white hazmat-costume-clad workers sealing entrances to apartment blocks and even closing off entire streets with about two-foot-high green fences went viral on social media on Saturday, prompting questions and complaints from residents.

“Is not this a fire hazard?” said a user on the social media platform Weibo.

“This is so disrespectful to people’s rights inside, by using metal barriers to enclose them as pets,” said another.

The Shanghai government did not respond to a request for comment.

Most of the barriers appeared to have been erected around areas designated as “sealed areas”, which are buildings where at least one person has tested positive for Covid-19, and so whose occupants are prohibited from leaving their front doors.

Reuters was unable to verify the authenticity of all photos and videos.

Shanghai, China’s largest city and main economic hub, is battling the country’s largest Covid-19 outbreak to date with a policy that forces all positive cases into key quarantine facilities.

The shutdown, which for many residents has lasted over three weeks, has fueled frustration over difficulties in accessing food and medical care as well as over lost pay, family separation, conditions at quarantine centers and censorship of efforts to vent online.

Citizens buy daily necessities in Shanghai, China. To avoid indoor cross-contamination, most stores do not allow consumers to enter the store, but put the store’s product range outside.

Future Publishing | Getty Images

It has also demanded a toll on the world’s second largest economy, with the factory’s efforts to resume production disrupted by constricted supply chains and difficulties faced by closed residents returning to work.

The city reported 39 new deaths from Covid-19 on April 23, against 12 the day before and the vast majority during the current eruption.

It did not report any deaths from Covid-19 during the first few weeks of the most recent increase in cases, raising doubts among residents about the numbers. It has since reported 87 fatalities from Covid-19, all within the last seven days.

New case numbers ticked down a bit for Saturday, but remained in the tens of thousands. Shanghai registered 19,657 new local asymptomatic cases against 20,634 a day earlier and 1,401 symptomatic cases, down from 2,736.

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China 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 all chains of infection.

This approach has been increasingly challenged by the proliferation of the highly contagious but less deadly omicron variant, which has led several cities to impose different levels of movement restrictions, which has been a further feature of the economy.

Nationwide, China reported 20,285 new asymptomatic coronavirus cases on April 23 against 21,423 a day earlier, with 1,580 symptomatic cases, down from 2,988.

The capital, Beijing, registered 22 new Covid-19 cases – all locally transmitted – compared to six the day before.

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