Overwhelmed by Covid, Shanghai also isolates negative cases

Largely spared for two years, China has faced its worst epidemic outbreak since the spring of 2020 in recent weeks.

In the metropolis of Shanghai, by far the most affected and whose 25 million inhabitants have been confined for a month, anyone who tests positive, even asymptomatic, is sent to a collective quarantine center – with varying comfort and hygiene.

It happens that residents are put in buses in the middle of the night to be evacuated. Many residents are exasperated by these isolation measures.

Especially since a negative test is no longer necessarily synonymous with peace of mind.

Several people who tested negative told AFP that they had been forced to leave their homes to isolate themselves outside of Shanghai. Some hundreds of kilometers from the city.

“We had no choice,” says Lucy, a resident who prefers to keep her last name quiet for fear of possible reprisals.

“The police told us that there were too many positive cases in our residence”.

According to the police, staying meant taking the risk of being infected.

And ultimately to weigh down the official toll as China pursues a zero Covid policy. Shanghai reported 7,137 new positive cases on Monday, a slight decline over 24 hours.

Displaced with her neighbors in the middle of a night, Lucy was sent more than 400km from her home to a makeshift quarantine center in eastern Anhui province.

This resident does not know when she will be able to return home.

His misadventure is far from being an isolated case. AFP was able to speak with other Shanghainese also sent to solitary confinement in other provinces.

A resident of the Jing’an district, known for its eponymous temple and its trendy cafes, testified on condition of anonymity.

In her residence, the negative cases have “all received a call” to leave their homes, she says.

The positive cases were “transferred to hotels to (there) be isolated”, specifies this resident, who also finds herself in Anhui in a “scary” quarantine center.

In view of the summary conditions, the companions in misfortune of her residence have “lost all confidence in the Shanghai authorities”, according to her.

Another resident interviewed by AFP assures that the firm opposition of its neighbors has in no way deterred the authorities from confining them outside Shanghai.

The controversial measure reflects the “strong pressure” of power on local authorities to achieve zero cases, said Yanzhong Huang, specialist in health issues at the Council on Foreign Relations in the United States.

Civil servants are regularly dismissed for alleged shortcomings, after the appearance of an epidemic focus.

To protect themselves from such a sanction, some officials are therefore tempted to resort to “excessive measures”, notes Mr. Huang.

Moving negative patients can, however, also be a matter of “prevention”, the authorities anticipating an increase in cases of contamination within a determined perimeter.

According to the official New China agency, several tens of thousands of contact cases have been isolated in provinces bordering Shanghai.

However, the media make no mention of negative cases.

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