Friday, February 3, 2023

Shanghai closure raises complaints as COVID-19 cases increase

BEIJING – COVID-19 cases in China’s largest city Shanghai continue to increase with millions being isolated at home under a drastic lockdown, as the draconian “zero-tolerance” approach to the pandemic is increasingly drawing complaints from residents fed up with the restrictions.

Health officials on Sunday reported 438 confirmed cases over the past 24 hours, along with 7,788 asymptomatic ones. Both figures were slightly higher than the previous day, while the north-eastern province of Jilin posted a combined 4,455 cases on Sunday, which is also an increase from Saturday.

Although small by the standards of some countries, the daily increases are the largest since the virus was first detected in central Wuhan city in late 2019.

Shanghai with its 26 million people began a two-phase closure last week, with residents of the eastern Pudong section expected to leave their homes on Friday, while their neighbors in the western Puxi section their own four-day isolation period have undergone.

Despite that assurance, millions in Pudong remain confined to their homes amid complaints about food deliveries and the availability of medication and health services.

Notices provided to residents said they take daily self-tests for COVID-19 and precautions, including wearing masks at home and avoiding contact with family members – measures that have not been widely applied since the early days of the pandemic. not.

While Wuhan endured a 76-day closure in 2020 with relatively few complaints, it appears that Shanghai residents – many of whom were in isolation even before last week’s closure – are becoming increasingly fed up with the measures and methods used to enforce it. .

Although coverage in China’s entirely state-run media remains overwhelmingly positive, complaints have surfaced online, including in the form of videos and audio recordings purporting to show harsh practices by officials and volunteers, claiming that sound medical advice has been ignored in favor of political opportunity.

“While there was little social resistance to the restriction once it was introduced in Wuhan, resistance in Shanghai is now palpable,” said Dali Yang, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago. Tweeted on sunday.

Given that the vast majority of cases in Shanghai are not life-threatening, “it is not surprising that the imposition of the lock-up and forced quarantine of the infected in difficult conditions is resisting,” Yang tweeted.

A city official apologized last week in response to complaints about the government’s handling of the restriction, and a deputy prime minister made major demands for improvements during a tour of Shanghai on Saturday.

Sun Chunlan, who sits on the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo, called for “determined and swift action to stem the spread of COVID-19 in Shanghai in the shortest possible time,” the official Xinhua news agency reported.

However, Sun emphasized the “unwavering compliance” with China’s strict “zero-COVID” approach, the mandate of closures, forced isolation of all alleged cases and mass testing, even while acknowledging the social and economic toll it is taking.

“It is a daunting task and a great challenge to combat the Omicron variant while maintaining the normal operation of core functions in a megacity,” Sun said.

She called for the security of key industries and institutions and the functioning of supply and industry chains in the commercial hub, along with ensuring “people’s basic living conditions and normal medical needs.”

State media reports indicate that President and leader of the Communist Party, Xi Jinping, is pursuing the continuing tough approach, while trying to avoid further damage to the splashing economy and ensure overall stability ahead of a major party congress expected for November.

Despite the increase in infections, China has not recorded any new COVID-19 deaths since March 20, when two were added for a total of 4,638. China’s vaccination rate is above 87 percent – though significantly lower among seniors – and Omicron is known to be more contagious, while the disease it causes is typically milder than with the earlier delta variant.

Nation World News Desk
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