Volunteers and government workers in Shanghai have erected metal barriers in multiple districts to close off small streets and apartment complex entrances, as China toughens its strict “zero-COVID” approach in its largest city, despite mounting complaints from residents.
In the city’s financial district, Pudong, the barriers — thin sheet metal or wire mesh fences — were placed in several neighborhoods under a directive from the local government, according to Caixin, a Chinese business media outlet. Buildings where cases have been found closed their main entrances, with a small opening for pandemic prevention staff.
In Beijing, authorities announced a massive test beginning Monday in the Chaoyang district, home to more than three million people in the Chinese capital.
The announcement sparked panic buying on Sunday night, with vegetables, eggs, soy sauce and other items being swept off supermarket shelves.
A new outbreak has infected at least 41 people, 26 of whom are in Chaoyang district, state broadcaster CGTN reports.
China reported 21,796 new community-borne COVID-19 infections on Sunday, the vast majority of which were asymptomatic cases in Shanghai. Across the country, many cities and counties have enforced some version of a lockdown in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
The latest outbreak, caused by the highly contagious Omicron variety, has spread across the country, but was especially large in Shanghai. The city, a financial center of 25 million, has counted hundreds of thousands of cases but fewer than 100 deaths since the outbreak began nearly two months ago.
An Associated Press investigation into the death toll found that despite a history of narrow criteria for linking deaths to certain diseases, most notably COVID-19, authorities have changed the way they count positive cases, leading to leeway in how they arrive at a definitive death toll. The result is almost certainly an undercount of the true death toll.
On social media, people posted videos of the new barriers posted on Saturday, with some expressing anger at the measures. The barriers are intended to clear major roads, Caixin reported.
In one video verified by the AP, residents exiting a building in Shanghai’s Xuhui district broke down the wire mesh barricade at their front entrance and set out to find the guard they believed to be responsible for hanging it.
Shanghai uses a tiered system in which neighborhoods are divided into three categories based on the risk of transmission. Those in the first category face the strictest COVID-19 controls and have been the main target of the newly increased measures. In the third category, some buildings allow people to leave their homes and visit public areas.
In Shanghai, authorities reported 39 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the official death toll to 4,725 by the end of Saturday, the National Health Commission said on Sunday.
The city’s lockdown has attracted worldwide attention for its strict approach and sometimes dangerous consequences. Many city residents struggle to get groceries, resorting to bartering and bulk buying. Others have not received adequate medical attention in time because of the strict control of movement.
On Friday, Chinese internet users shared a six-minute video called “Voices of April” that documents some of the most challenging public moments the city has experienced during the nearly month-long lockdown. One section contains audio of residents of a community in Shanghai protesting on April 8, shouting, “Send us food! Send us food! Send us food!” together.
The video covered WeChat timelines before being abruptly removed by censors this Saturday.
The Chinese authorities have continued to say that the “zero-COVID” strategy is the best way forward, given the low vaccination coverage in people over 60 years of age, and that omicron would lead to many deaths and serious illnesses if the country is strict approach would end.