Shanghai is in the midst of a COVID-19 surge and new drone footage shows the eerily empty streets of the normally bustling city of 26 million as it is locked down by the government in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.
A new spike of cases in Shanghai started to ramp up in late March and in the ensuing days has escalated to the highest number of new cases since the pandemic began. The city reported a record of more than 9,000 cases on Sunday and a total lockdown of the city started early in the morning on April 1.
China’s ruling Communist Party has taken a hard-line stance and is attempting a strict elimination strategy that forces nearly the entire population of Shanghai into isolation.
The result of the strict isolation strategy is nearly empty streets in a city that is usually bustling with activity. In two drone videos, one published by The Guardian and another by YouTuber Tim Chambers, China’s most populated city appears completely deserted.
Military Deployed to Enforce the Lockdown
According to CNN, China deployed thousands of military personnel to lock down the city and assist in the mandatory screening of its millions of inhabitants. While Shanghai’s number of new cases is relatively small compared to other major cities during previous points of the pandemic, China’s leadership is using an extremely strict response to the highly contagious omicron variant, which includes increased testing, mandatory lockdowns, and what CNN describes as controversial isolation policies that can separate family members, even children, if they test positive.
More than 30,000 medics have been sent to the city according to China’s state media and more than 2,000 military medical workers joined them on Sunday as the city’s positive cases skyrocketed.
China’s response to the outbreak has yet to bear fruit. Bloomberg reports that Shanghai’s daily covid cases set a new one-day record of 16,412 infections as of Tuesday, April 5, the highest number of single cases since February of 2020 when infections passed 15,000.
China’s government is swiftly setting up new hospitals and quarantine facilities and local authorities have been ordered to put anyone who was in close contact with a person who has tested positive into quarantine in order to “win the war” against the spread of the virus.
The total number of positive Omicron cases in Shanghai has exceeded 73,000.
China has been attempting to paint an optimistic picture of the lockdown and according to healthcare economist Eric Feigl-Ding, released the video below thanking healthcare working and promising the situation will soon improve. Ding says that in areas of Shanghai not yet in lockdown citizens are fighting over what remains of grocery store supplies.
2) The above is a govt video thanking healthcare workers and saying things will be better soon. Meanwhile on the mean streets of western Shanghai still not in lockdown yet (PuXi lockdown starts soon), here is how things are actually going at supermarkets. https://t.co/Wu49OaOMJ9
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) March 30, 2022
China’s Response Criticized as Inhumane
The Guardian reports that patients that are sick with non-COVID-related illnesses are being kept away from hospitals that have been tasked with specifically curbing the spread of the virus by the Chinese government. The Communist Party’s policies call for all people who test positive to be hospitalized, leaving little to no room for those sick with cancer or other ailments.
Additionally, The Guardian says that an overwhelming feeling of helplessness has pervaded the city as not only are the infirm who are not affected by the virus suffer, but also children who have been forcibly separated from their families.
After being separated from her toddler who was taken away after testing positive, one parent called China’s response “inhumane.” Those with mild symptoms also accuse the government of overreacting.
“Before Omicron arrived, it was understandable that those who got it should be sent to quarantine facilities,” Deng Zhaoyang, a man who has been in quarantine since March 29, tells The Guardian. “But now most of them only have mild symptoms. Shouldn’t the government adjust their policy accordingly?”
This outbreak of the Omicron variant — its first appearance in the region — is proving to be the biggest test for China’s zero-COVID policy in its attempt to completely eradicate the virus from the area. As a result, the city — a major financial hub for China — has come to a complete standstill.