Shanghai health officials on Thursday announced the discovery of seven new coronavirus cases, to the consternation of residents who fear the brutal two-month lockdown that ended only a day ago could be re-imposed at any time.
At least two apartment complexes have been placed back under quarantine, infuriating and terrifying people who were released from house arrest only 24 hours ago.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) ominously described the new coronavirus cases as a “setback that underscores the challenges in completely blocking out the Omicron variant in one of the most congested cities on Earth.”
The SCMP quoted health officials who said “all 26 close contacts of the infected patients had been put under quarantine” – and two residential compounds have been once again turned into coronavirus prisons, with all residents confined to their homes for at least 14 days.
A woman living in Shanghai’s Minhang district told AFP her apartment building was “hastily resealed on Thursday morning” after one resident had an “abnormal” coronavirus test result. Outraged residents complained about the “never-ending” lockdown and struggled to retrieve items left at their offices during their sole day of freedom on Wednesday.
“I had just one happy day yesterday,” the woman mournfully observed.
AFP correspondents saw chains fastened on the gates of another residential compound in Jing’an after a “confrontation” broke out between residents and officials. The residents evidently lost that argument and have been re-imprisoned in their homes.
“I didn’t feel this reopening was real in the first place. I had suspicions after all that we’ve been through in the past two months. What if we have more cases? Is it possible we’d be thrown back to March?” a frightened Jing’an resident told AFP.
Health officials warned Shanghai still faces “risks of resurgent cases” and will “adhere unswervingly to the zero-Covid policy” imposed by the Chinese Communist Party. Despite Chinese state media trumpeting the glorious reopening of the city, over half a million people are still under movement restrictions, and police are cracking down on those who attempt to evade them.
Residents were instructed to practice social distancing and avoid crowds – an order that comes a bit late, since the city was swept by celebrations in the streets after its imprisoned population was released on Wednesday. Reporters observed a good deal of hugging as friends and family who have been locked in different apartments for two months were reunited.
A major Chinese holiday called Duan Wu Jie, the “Dragon Boat Festival,” is scheduled to begin on Friday and last throughout the weekend.
Horror from Shanghai! https://t.co/0mOJF1mAy4
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The holiday, which has important connections to both national and regional Chinese history and traditionally had practical value for farmers as it marks the beginning of summer, is considered to be on par with Lunar New Year – making it difficult to cancel or postpone. The holiday is so important that the Chinese military has reportedly decided to ceremonially launch its third aircraft carrier from the Jiangnan shipyard in Shanghai on Friday.
As its name suggests, Duan Wu Jie involves large numbers of colorfully-dressed people packing themselves into dragon-headed rowboats and racing across the water while merry crowds watch from shore.
All indications are that Shanghai intends to proceed with its Dragon Boat Festival despite the potential for coronavirus spread, unless city health officials decide to intervene at the last moment.
The Chinese government has been scrambling to reassure foreign businessmen and investors that lockdowns are over for the time being, fearful that capital and personnel flight from cities like Shanghai could destabilize the tottering Chinese economy.
Those reassurances will be difficult to make if the government is still bent on “completely blocking out” the highly contagious Omicron variant in densely populated cities like Shanghai that also happen to be major hubs for travel and shipping.