WARNING: Disturbing images
Chinese authorities are resorting to extraordinary measures to keep residents locked down amid a fresh surge in coronavirus infections, as the country struggles to maintain its “zero Covid” strategy.
As the more infectious Omicron variant spreads, daily case numbers in China have officially risen above 10,000 for the first time.
Earlier this week, lockdowns in China’s second-most populous city, Shanghai, were extended to cover its entire population of 25 million people.
Residents are banned from leaving their homes, even to shop for groceries, and many have taken to social media to say they’re running out of food.
Yesterday, it was reported a dog was beaten to death by a health worker in the city. A video of the beating went viral after being shared on social media.
In the clip, a Covid-19 prevention worker dressed in protective gear can be seen chasing the corgi down the street before hitting it with a shovel.
The scale of the lockdown has also overwhelmed grocery shops and delivery services.
“It is true there are some difficulties in ensuring the supply of daily necessities,” local official Liu Min conceded on Wednesday.
Mass Covid testing is mandatory, and anyone who tests positive is taken to quarantine facilities. This has led to some children being separated from their parents.
The citywide lockdown is indefinite.
Other parts of China have been subjected to similar restrictions in the past month, including Shenzhen, Changchun, Xuzhou, Tangshan and Jilin. At one point in March, almost 40 million Chinese residents were under various levels of lockdown, according to CNN.
The capital city, Beijing, has also locked some people inside their homes. Yesterday, a viral Reddit post, written by a Beijing resident, described challenges similar to those that have been plaguing Shanghai.
The Reddit user said Beijing had been hit by a “state of panic”, leading authorities to impose an “extreme lockdown without warning”.
“I live in Beijing. At about 10am, motion sensors were placed on my doors to track my movement,” they said.
“It rings when I open the door and I’m forced back inside. I have no food because they never told me this would happen. Why didn’t they warn us beforehand?”
When the resident’s door is opened, a guard is sent to check on them.
This is not the first time Beijing authorities have used motion sensors; other instances were reported earlier in the pandemic.
Food and supplies are a major problem. While some people locked down in Beijing are able to order groceries online, that service is unavailable at the Reddit user’s address.
They have enough food to last “four-ish” days, but are low on water, and the sink water is not potable.
The post drew more than a thousand comments, several of which shared information about restrictions in other parts of China.
“What the hell? I live in Shenzhen and they blasted a loudspeaker for days before locking us down, and let us order groceries online,” said one commenter.
“It was still a pain because we couldn’t walk our dog. Whatever is going on in Beijing is ridiculous.”
They said health workers and volunteers picked up groceries for locked-down residents in Shenzhen and left them outside their doors.
Another commenter, who lives in Jilin, said they had been quarantined for one month and would likely remain trapped inside for a second.
And a third said the situation in Shanghai was worse, with people “literally starving”.
“If Beijing is getting this bad, (other) places are getting exponentially worse,” the original poster acknowledged.
“There is no consideration for lockdown. None. Healthy people like me with a bit of food have it lucky, I can only imagine what it’s like for people with infants or prior health conditions.”
China is one of the few nations still persisting with a zero Covid strategy, even though its full vaccination rate is approaching 90 per cent.
“This country’s zero Covid system is, at best, struggling to cope,” the BBC’s China correspondent, Stephen McDonell, wrote this week.
“The logistical challenges required to confine 25 million people to their homes, while keeping them fed, are huge. Social media is full of angry residents complaining that they can’t order food because the delivery system is clogged up.
“Centralised isolation facilities – many using only camp beds, with no showers or other facilities – are bursting with infected people squashed in next to one another.
“The Chinese government’s complete elimination strategy has become something of a mantra, with the government ridiculing other countries for sacrificing their own people on the altar of opening up.
“Some medical specialists here have tried to get the message through that, for a vaccinated person, catching the Omicron variant will probably not necessitate going to hospital.
“Few people in China seem to be aware of this. Their officials and state media have kept it from them. So the lockdowns continue.”
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