Last updated on April 24, 2022
Shanghai is China’s most populous city and the center of the country’s booming economy. However, the bustling streets have been eerily silent since China’s “Zero-Covid” policy was put in place. The 25 million residents have been under an extremely stringent lockdown since the beginning of April. As the lockdown precedes, immense humanitarian costs have emerged.
Under China’s “Zero-Covid” strategy all infected people, even those asymptomatic, are sent to isolation centers. Unfortunately, with nearly 20,000 positive cases a day, the government has struggled with finding space to put those infected. An array of public areas such as schools and exhibition halls have been converted into makeshift hospitals. These facilities often lack medical staff and private areas for sleeping or bathing.
Outrage sparked after a video circulated where a pet dog was beaten to death by a government worker clad in a hazmat suit after its owner tested positive for the virus. Other appalling videos showed toddlers and babies in COVID-19 isolation facilities. Multiple babies were recorded in the same crib and had been left unattended.
The Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center did not contradict the validity of the videos and confirmed that children were being separated from their COVID-infected parents in a statement given to The New York Times.
Delivery trucks and grocery stores have also been completely overwhelmed by the lockdown. Despite government rations, food supplies have been running dangerously low. The lack of bare necessities has caused tremendous anxiety and frustration among residents. Many have begun bartering with neighbors for supplies. Videos posted to social media show people desperately screaming out balconies and windows, “Save us. We don’t have enough to eat!”
The situation has reached dire levels as shown in a recent video of shoppers looting a supermarket after receiving insufficient rations.
Despite government censorship removing complaints from the internet, information has continued to leak out. Exasperated residents have taken to the Chinese social media network Weibo to voice protests about a scarcity of food and extreme lockdown measures.
One user wrote: “No matter where you live, whether you have money or not, you have to worry about what else you can eat and how you can buy things.”
The sky above Shanghai is filled with swarms of drones, blaring Covid restrictions. A robotic voice broadcasts the message, “During the pandemic, we request that you strictly abide by COVID-19 restrictions and related guidelines. Control your soul’s desire for freedom. Do not open the window or sing. This increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission.”
Throughout the pandemic, China has reported less than 5,000 total deaths. Although there is some speculation regarding the legitimacy of that number, it is still significantly less than countries like the US which suffered nearly a million deaths. However, since the beginning of the draconian Shanghai lockdown, many ponder if China can maintain its former level of control.
The situation appears borderline apocalyptic considering the scenes of people screaming out their windows and apartment buildings reverting to bartering systems.
“There are signs that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to implement the “Zero-Covid” policy as the social-economic cost is rising rapidly and exponentially,” said Yanzhong Huang, a public health expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in the U.S.
For now, Shanghai’s fate seems uncertain as the implications of the severe lockdown continue to loom over the future. The reign of chaos that COVID-19 has brought is perhaps a far greater terror than contracting the virus itself.