Shanghai blockade of Covid-hit buildings sparks fresh outcry | China

Shanghai authorities battling an outbreak of Covid-19 have erected mesh barriers outside some residential buildings, sparking fresh public outcry over a lockdown that has forced much of the city’s 25 million people to stay home.

Images of white hazmat suit-clad workers sealing entrances of housing blocks and even closing off entire streets with 2 metre-tall green fencing went viral on social media on Saturday, prompting questions and complaints from residents.

“Isn’t this a fire hazard?” said one user on social media platform Weibo.

“This is so disrespectful of the rights of the people inside, using metal barriers to enclose them like domestic animals,” said another.

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

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

Shanghai, China’s largest city and most important economic hub, is battling the country’s biggest-ever Covid outbreak with a policy that forces all positive cases into central quarantine facilities.

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

It has also exacted a toll on the world’s second-largest economy, with factory efforts to resume production disrupted by snarled supply chains and difficulties faced by locked-down residents returning to work.

The city reported 39 new deaths from Covid for Saturday, compared with 12 the previous day and by far the most during the current outbreak.

It did not report any deaths from Covid during the first few weeks of its latest case surge, fueling doubt among residents about the figures. It has since reported 87 fatalities from the virus, all in the past seven days.

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

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

Meanwhile 22 new infections were reported in the capital Beijing – compared with six the day before – after warnings from an official on Saturday that the city must take urgent action.

Health official Pang Xinghuo said preliminary observations suggested Covid had been “spreading invisibly” within the capital for a week now, affecting “schools, tour groups and many families”.

“The risk of continued and hidden transmission is high, and the situation is grim,” Tian Wei of Beijing’s municipal party committee told a press briefing. “The whole city of Beijing must act immediately.”

With Reuters and Agence France-Presse

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