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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Fresh Rollout of Shanghai COVID Restrictions Stir Fears of Another Lockdown

Nearly 46 residential buildings or neighborhoods have been designated as medium to high-risk zones

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CHINA: The unveiling of fresh COVID-19 restrictions across Shanghai has fuelled fears of another possible lockdown, where the country could be barred to the extreme like in the past, to contain infections across the city and maintain a sense of stability before a major political meeting scheduled on Sunday. 

Shanghai residents are no strangers to tight restrictions, as they have been subject to a tiring and long two-month lockdown earlier this year, resulting in online school lessons and sudden snap closures in the city. 

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Local news media reported that nearly 46 residential buildings or neighborhoods had been designated as a medium to high-risk zones across 14 of Shanghai’s 16 districts.

Several sporting venues and entertainment zones have been shut down indefinitely, and all new arrivals must be tested within 24 hours, authorities notified on Sunday.

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Although there have been no confirmed notices or public declarations about a potential lockdown, rumours and speculations report of small, localised bans, and snap lockdowns, trapping people inside their own homes or in other buildings.

Many reports on social media shared stories of emergency fire escapes being locked or pets left unattended when their owners did not return after being taken to the quarantine facility. Others shared news of previously unreported lockdowns of shops and buildings.

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Across China, some people were blocked from returning home to Beijing after the Golden Week holidays by alert warnings that they “may have a time and space relationship with the epidemic risk“. 

The blockades were rumoured to have been set in place to minimise the risk of any possible outbreak during this weekend’s Chinese Communist party congress meeting.

Other Chinese cities have ramped up testing, closed tourism sites, and halted public transport. 

Shenzhen, which reported 33 cases on Wednesday, has ordered daily testing for all arrivals for three days. In Beijing, the shuttle buses bringing tens of thousands of workers in from Tianjin and Hebei were suspended.

Shanghai recorded just three locally transmitted cases and 44 asymptomatic cases on Wednesday. All tested positive while already in centralised quarantine facilities, and added to a total of 1,173 cases, 83% of them asymptomatic, since July.

At least 36 Chinese cities across 31 provinces were under various degrees of lockdown or control just this week, affecting a whopping 197 million people, according to monitors.

Despite low numbers of infections in proportion to China’s huge population density, tight pandemic bans are always imposed in the wake of a possible outbreak to adhere to China’s “dynamic zero” Covid strategy. The strategy was pretty successful but did have a few limitations: high transmissibility of the virus, new variants, and others.

On Thursday, Beijing bore witness to a horde of short-lived anti-lockdown protesters with a specific banner hung on an overpass that read, “We don’t want PCR tests; we want to eat.”

Also Read: COVID Freshly Emerged in China, Eastern Cities Tightens COVID Curbs

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