SHANGHAI, RAW – 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 population to stay at home.
Images of white hazmat-suit-clad workers sealing entrances of housing blocks and closing off entire streets with roughly two metre-tall green fencing went viral on social media on Saturday, prompting questions and complaints from residents.
“Isn’t this a fire hazard?,” asked 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.
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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-19, resulting in residents being forbidden from leaving their homes.
Shanghai, China’s largest city and most important economic hub, is battling the country’s biggest-ever reported COVID-19 outbreak with a policy that forces all positive cases into central quarantine facilities.
The lockdown, which for many residents has lasted more than three weeks, has fuelled frustration over difficulties accessing food and medical care as well as lost wages, family separation, conditions at quarantine centres, and censorship of efforts to vent online.
It has also exacted a toll on the world’s second-largest economy, with efforts to resume factory production disrupted by snarled supply chains and difficulties faced by locked-down residents returning to work.
The city reported 39 new deaths from COVID-19 for April 23 – by far the most during the current outbreak – versus 12 the previous day.
It did not report any deaths with the virus during the first few weeks of its latest case surge, fuelling doubt among residents about the figures.
It has since reported 87 fatalities with COVID-19, 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, versus 20,634 a day earlier, and 1401 symptomatic cases, down from 2736.
China largely succeeded in keeping COVID-19 at bay following the initial outbreak in Wuhan in late 2019, with a “dynamic zero” policy aimed at stamping out all chains of infection.
That approach has been increasingly challenged by the spread of the highly infectious but less deadly Omicron variant, which has led numerous cities to impose various levels of movement restrictions that have been a further drag on the economy.
Nationwide, China reported 20,285 new asymptomatic coronavirus cases for April 23, versus 21,423 a day earlier.
The capital Beijing recorded 22 new cases – all locally transmitted – compared to six the day before.