Images of white hazmat suit-clad workers sealing entrances of housing blocks and even closing off entire streets with roughly two meter-tall green fencing went viral on social media on Saturday, April 23, prompting questions and complaints from residents.
“This is so disrespectful of the rights of the people inside, using metal barriers to enclose them like domestic animals,” said one user on the social media platform Weibo.
SHANGHAI, China – Shanghai authorities battling an outbreak of COVID-19 have erected mesh barriers outside some residential buildings, sparking a fresh public outcry over a lockdown that has forced much of the city’s 25 million people to stay home.
Residents shouted at workers erecting fencing from their balconies in one video, but they eventually yielded and took them away. Other recordings showed individuals attempting to tear down the fences.
“Isn’t this a fire hazard?” said another Weibo user.
The majority of the barriers appeared to be constructed around “sealed areas,” which are buildings where at least one individual has tested positive for COVID-19 and whose tenants are not allowed to leave their front doors.
It was unclear what caused authorities to put up barriers, but a notice posted online on Saturday from one local authority indicated it was enforcing a “hard quarantine” on specific regions.
Reuters was not able to verify the authenticity of the photos, videos, or notice.
A request for a response from the Shanghai authorities was not returned
Shanghai, China’s largest metropolis and economic center, is fighting the country’s largest-ever COVID-19 outbreak with an extermination policy that aims to test, trace, and force all positive patients into central quarantine facilities.
The lockdown, which has lasted more than three weeks for many inhabitants, has fueled anger about a lack of food and medical care, as well as lost income, family separation, quarantine conditions, and censorship of internet venting.
It has also dragged on the world’s second-largest economy, with snarled supply chains disrupting factory production and residents returning to work facing challenges.
To limit virus transmission outside of quarantine regions, the city is testing for COVID-19 daily and transferring positive individuals to central isolation facilities as quickly as possible.
According to neighbors and social media posts, officials have started transporting entire communities, including uninfected people, to isolation facilities outside Shanghai, claiming that they intended to sterilize their homes.
On April 23, the city recorded 39 new COVID-19 deaths, compared to 12 the day before and by far the most during the current outbreak.
It failed to register any deaths in the first few weeks, leading to people’s skepticism of the data. Since then, it has reported 87 deaths, all within the last seven days.
Shanghai had 19,657 new locally transmitted asymptomatic cases, compared to 20,634 the day before, and 1,401 symptomatic cases, compared to 2,736 the day before.
Outside of restricted regions, there were 280 cases, up from 218 the day before. When case numbers reached a certain threshold, other cities that had been under lockdown began to relax their restrictions.
Following the initial outbreak in Wuhan in late 2019, China generally succeeded in keeping COVID-19 at bay by implementing a “dynamic zero” policy targeted at breaking infection networks.
That approach has been challenged by the spread of the highly infectious but less deadly Omicron variant, which has prompted cities to impose various levels of restrictions on movement.
Nationwide, China reported 20,285 new asymptomatic coronavirus cases for Saturday, versus 21,423 a day earlier, with 1,580 symptomatic cases, versus 2,988.
Beijing recorded 22 new COVID-19 cases – all locally transmitted – compared to six the day before, prompting several gyms and after-school activity providers to suspend in-person classes.