‘Go home!’ COVID-hit Shanghai and Beijing urge residents to avoid social contact

‘Go home!’  COVID-hit Shanghai and Beijing urge residents to avoid social contact

  • Shanghai tightens restrictions on residents
  • Beijing closes more connections, roads, parks
  • Both cities are grappling with the worst outbreaks since the epidemic began

SHANGHAI/BEJING, May 9 (Reuters) – China’s two biggest cities tightened COVID-19 curbs on their residents on Monday, raising new frustration and even questions over the legality of their all-out fight against the virus.

As authorities wrestle with China’s worst COVID outbreaks since the epidemic began, authorities in the most populous city of Shanghai have launched a new push to end infections outside quarantine zones by the end of May, people familiar with the matter said. Continue reading

Although there was no official announcement, some residents in at least four of the 16 districts received notices over the weekend that they could no longer leave their homes or take deliveries in a bid to bring community infections down to zero.

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“Go home, go home!” A woman called through a megaphone to residents mingling beneath apartment towers on one of those grounds on Sunday.

Two residents in a fifth district, Yangpu, said they had been informed of similar measures and that grocery stores in their neighborhoods were closing as part of the effort.

The simmering public anger was fueled by online accounts of authorities forcing neighbors of positive cases into a central quarantine and demanding that they hand over the keys to their homes for disinfection, something legal experts denounced as unlawful.

Video showed police picking a lock after a resident refused to open a door.

In another case, a voice recording of a call from a woman arguing with officials, demanding that disinfectant be sprayed around her home despite testing negative, circulated online.

Professor Tong Zhiwei, who teaches law at East China University of Political Science and Law, wrote in an essay widely shared on social media on Sunday that such acts are illegal and should stop.

“Shanghai should set a good example for the whole country on how to conduct COVID prevention work in a scientific and legitimate manner,” Tong wrote.

Such measures should only be taken in a state of emergency, he said in the paper, which had contributions from more than 20 scientists.

Liu Dali, a lawyer from one of China’s largest law firms, wrote a similar letter to the authorities.

Copies of both letters have been censored from the Chinese internet, although users have reposted screenshots. Posts from Tong’s social media account on the Weibo website were suspended late Sunday.

Liu and Tong did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

China is insisting on sticking to its zero-COVID policy to fight a disease that first emerged in the city of Wuhan in late 2019, despite the mounting strain on its economy.

Authorities have warned against criticizing a policy they say saves lives.

They point to much higher death tolls in other countries that have eased or scrapped restrictions to “live with COVID” even as infections are spreading.

“We must insist on regulating the flow and controlling the movement of people,” the Shanghai municipal government responded to Reuters questions about the recent curbs.

A “one-size-fits-all” approach should be avoided and each district is allowed to tighten the measures according to its own situation, it said.

On Monday, Shanghai reported a 10th straight day of a drop in new cases.

SUDDEN LOCKDOWN

In Beijing, residents in the hardest-hit areas were told to work from home, while more streets, grounds and parks were sealed off on Monday as the city of 22 million grappled with its worst outbreak since 2020.

More bus routes were suspended as further rounds of testing were conducted in a handful of districts, including Chaoyang and Fangshan, both of which city authorities described as “priority of priorities” in the city’s epidemic response.

Beijing on Monday reported 49 new locally transmitted cases for May 8, raising the number of infections to more than 760 since April 22.

Beijing has hoped to avoid the weeks-long lockdowns Shanghai has been undergoing, but the growing number of apartment buildings under lockdown orders is unsettling residents.

“I just rented an apartment in this compound and have not received a notice,” said a 28-year-old resident of northern Beijing’s Changping district, surnamed Wang, after she was banned from leaving her compound on Monday.

“I’ve been working from home before, but I’m concerned I might run out of daily supplies.”

Local residents received a notice later Monday morning that positive cases had been detected in the area.

A nanny who lives on the same premises said the lockdown meant she couldn’t get a new job.

“Today is the first day at work and now I can’t go out,” said the 40-year-old, who gave her name as Meizi.

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Reporting by Brenda Goh, Zhang Yan, Winni Zhou, David Stanway and the Beijing Newsroom; Writing by Ryan Woo

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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