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China and Covid19

Chinese Covid Vocabulary 4.0: Shanghai’s ‘Bubble-Style Management’

From closed-loop to semi-closed to bubble-style to point-based, Shanghai’s Covid vocabulary is becoming confusing.

Manya Koetse

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As Shanghai has introduced new terms to describe epidemic prevention measures during this first stage of Shanghai’s gradual reopening, netizens are getting confused about China’s new Covid lexicon.

On a May 19 press conference, deputy mayor Zhang Wei (张为) announced that more businesses in Shanghai will be allowed to reopen in stages in the coming month amid a declining number of new Covid-19 infections in the city. Four metro lines have opened, more bus routes are resuming operations, and trains will start running for limited hours. But the gradual reopening of Shanghai is far from the old ‘normal’; there will still be many restrictions and regulations for the city’s 26 million inhabitants as part of the zero-Covid strategy.

Zhang Wei during the press conference.

Regarding public transportation, all passengers must have a new negative nucleic acid test result (taken within 48 hours), masks will be mandatory, they will need a ‘green’ health QR code, and smart inspection devices will monitor body temperature at bus and metro stations (temperatures must be below 37,3 degrees).

As for companies, they will operate within a so-called ‘closed-loop’ or ‘semi-closed-loop’ system for this first phase of the city’s gradual reopening. Zhang Wei also introduced the terms ‘point-based work resumption’ (点式复工) and ‘bubble-style management’ (气泡式管理) to describe how some enterprises will be pushed to resume work and production processes until at least early June.

News report in which the two terms are mentioned.

Both of these terms were discussed on Chinese social media as new words added to the Covid-related vocabulary since Wuhan 2020. After the introduction of many other new words – including the recent ‘hard isolation’ and ‘permanent fangcang’ – some commenters said the terms belonged to the ‘Shanghai Epidemic Dictionary Version 4.0.’

Similar to ‘bubble-style management,’ the term “bubble closed-loop management” (气泡式闭环管理) also appeared in this year’s Winter Olympics, where participants were only allowed to move between Games-related venues for their training, catering, accommodation, etc. through a dedicated Games transport system. Participants were not allowed to leave their designated areas.

For many Chinese residents, closed-loop management systems are nothing new. After the initial lockdown phase in the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak in China, the ‘Covid-19 closed-loop management’ (新冠疫情闭环管理) was applied to various areas whenever there were new local cases of COVID-19. In early August of 2021, for example, there was a closed-loop management system for residential areas in Zhengzhou after a spike in local cases and many communities and campuses across China have seen such management periods at some point during the pandemic.

Despite closed community rules, this pedicure shop found a way to resume work. Viral image shared on Weibo in context of ‘bubble-style management.’

The most important thing the closed-loop approach does is create a barrier between an ‘inside’ community and the ‘outside’ world, with very strict checks on who can enter and exit the area, and usually a ban on group gatherings within the area. Residents sometimes get an access card to enter/exit the district, but any outsiders, including couriers and delivery staff, are not allowed inside the closed surroundings.

The closed-loop measure is not the same as a lockdown (“封城”). The main goal of the closed-loop ‘bubble’ approach is to limit and reduce the flow of people and their movements within an area in order to dramatically reduce the risks of new infections among people within the bubble.

The Olympic ‘bubble system’ was so strict that authorities even issued a statement saying locals should not approach people on an Olympic vehicle in the case of an accident or crash (they would need to call the emergency number and maintain their distance), in order to make sure that there would be no contact at all between people from within the bubble and outside the bubble.

 

The bubble system basically means that most Shanghai companies can’t reopen because their companies do not have the capabilities to create a bubble.”

 

Shanghai’s current ‘point-based work resumption’ (点式复工) and ‘bubble-style management’ (气泡式管理) are both epidemic prevention measures during this first stage of Shanghai’s gradual reopening to resume work, given that the requirements and conditions for the resumption of work are met.

‘Point-based work resumption’ is an active policy for people holding key positions at companies within the non-manufacturing sector that are resuming work. According to the ‘point-to-point’ (点对点) strategy, employees are either staying within the closed loop of their workplace or within the premises of their community. They can only return to their workplace once a month, and are not allowed to stay longer than one week.

‘Bubble-style management’ refers to the closed-loop commute system between workplaces and residential communities through a direct company shuttle bus. The ‘bubble’ can not be broken, meaning only workplaces with zero Covid risks and communities without any cases can be inside such a bubble commute system.

The difference between bubble-style management and ‘closed-loop management’ (闭环管理) is that the first still allows people to go out and move between home and work. In the case of strict ‘closed management,’ people are confined to their work dorms or their residential community.

“Can we issue a Covid dictionary, please?” one commenter asked, with many still confused about what the two terms actually mean and how they are different from each other: “What does it even mean?”

“The bubble system basically means that most Shanghai companies can’t reopen because their companies do not have the capabilities to create a ‘bubble.’ It seems impossible unless the government provides them with the ‘bubble,'” another Shanghai-based commenter said.

Others also suggested the ‘bubble system’ is just another way to get people stuck inside their workplace. If there would be a Covid infection in the workplace, employees potentially could get stuck there as they would not be allowed to return home due to the risk of bringing a new case into their community compound.

On Weibo, some say the term ‘bubbe-style management’ sounds like it comes straight from a science fiction novel, with others adding: “We’re already in the future.”

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China and Covid19

Residents in Locked Down Lhasa Say Local Epidemic Situation is a “Giant Mess”

Manya Koetse

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They’ve been in lockdown for 42 days already, but according to some Lhasa-based bloggers, there have been no improvements in the local epidemic situation. They say there is a stark difference between what officials are reporting and the daily reality they are dealing with in Tibet.

“The epidemic situation is bad in Lhasa, please pay attention,” one netizen wrote on Weibo on September 15, pointing to many new posts surfacing on Chinese social media about the difficulties people are facing in Lhasa city in Tibet.

Over the past week, many Tibet-based bloggers have posted on social media about the local circumstances, and hundreds of Chinese social media posts talk about similar problems in the region. Despite the ongoing lockdown, they say, there are still a growing number of positive cases within Lhasa communities; buses are allegedly going back and forth to bring people to quarantine sites where those testing positive and negative are mixed; they claim that there is an absolute lack of management and control; and many locals suggest that the official reports do not reflect the actual number of Covid cases at all.

According to the official numbers, Tibet saw its peak in Covid cases on August 17 and has since reported fewer new cases, reporting a total of 118 new cases on Thursday.

“I am a bit shocked!” one local social media user wrote: “What I saw was a total of 28 buses lined up outside Lhasa Nagqu No. 2 Senior High School, and then still more [buses] were coming. One bus can fit around 50 people, so there must have been around 1400 positive cases. There was a blind man, there were elderly people in wheelchairs, there were swaddled-up babies, from getting on the bus at 9.30 pm up to now, we’ve been waiting for 5 hours and we’re still waiting now. It’s just pure chaos at the school entrance, there is no order. I won’t sleep tonight.”

On the 14th of September, another netizen wrote:

“In order to welcome central government leaders to Lhasa and to demonstrate the “excellent” epidemic prevention capabilities of the local government & the “outstanding” results of the fight against the epidemic to them, they moved citizens to the rural areas and let them all stay crowded together in unfinished concrete buildings, with all kinds of viruses having free reign.”

On a Lhasa community message board, one Weibo user wrote: “Lhasa has already been in lockdown for over a month, yet our little community has so many infected people that I’m wondering how effective a lockdown actually is? Has Tibet been forgotten? When other places in China have a few positive cases it becomes a hot topic. But what about Tibet? And what about Lhasa?”

Another anonymous poster writes: “Regarding the Lhasa epidemic situation, the numbers were already a bit fake before, but I can understand it was also to take the public sentiment into consideration. I personally don’t care how you report the data, as long as the epidemic prevention and control work is properly managed, then the lockdown can be lifted soon and nobody will say anything about it. But a month has passed already, and in a town with some hundred thousands of people, the epidemic work is increasingly getting worse. Many people around me have never even left the house and inexplicably turned out to test positive. Meanwhile those who tested positive are quarantined together with people who still tested negative, it’s a giant mess.”

 

“Lhasa hasn’t had a Covid outbreak for the past three years, the city doesn’t have enough experience in controlling the epidemic.”

 

“It’s the 42nd day of lockdown,” another person wrote on Friday: “People are lining up to go to centralized isolation, Lhasa has been in lockdown longer than Chengdu, but it doesn’t make it to the hot topic lists. People who tested negative again and again suddenly turn out to be positive. Lhasa hasn’t had a Covid outbreak for the past three years, the city doesn’t have enough experience in controlling the epidemic. It’s going to be hard to restore tourism here before the end of the year. Before, big crowds would come to visit.

Over the past few days, following a heightened focus on the situation in Xinjiang, there has also been more attention for the epidemic situation in Tibet.

“Please pay more attention to the topic of the Lhasa epidemic,” one person wrote, repeating a similar message sent out by many others: “Lhasa doesn’t need your prayers, we need exposure.”

On Friday, one popular gamer with more than a million followers wrote on Weibo:

“Many have been reaching out to me via private messages, saying that the epidemic situation in Tibet’s Lhasa is very serious. If it’s really like this, I hope matters can be settled as soon as possible. I don’t know if this post can stay up or not, but I want to try my best to speak up and generate more attention to this epidemic trend. I experienced two months of lockdown in Shanghai myself and understand what it feels like. I have faith in our nation, and I believe the country will definitely take action. Everyone in Tibet, jiayou [come on].”

Many of the comments and posts coming from Lhasa are similar to those we saw last week, coming from Yining in Xinjiang. Social media users based in these places complain that many of their posts have been deleted and that it is very difficult for local residents to make their voices heard.

This is different from the previous lockdown situations in, for example, Xi’an, Shanghai, or Chengdu, where people posted videos, photos, and shared their lockdown experiences, either from home, from the Covid testing lines, or from the makeshift hospitals.

On the one hand, the reason why people in places such as Lhasa or Yining have more difficulties in making their stories heard in China’s hectic social media environment relates to the fact that these places have a relatively small population size – while Yining and Lhasa have approximately 542,00 and 465,000 inhabitants respectively, there are 21 million people in Chengdu and some 26 million in Shanghai.

But a bigger barrier to posting about their circumstances is formed by the social media censorship that is extra strict when it comes to Xinjiang and Tibet as these places are considered sensitive political subjects, which is why topics related to these regions see far more aggressive online censorship – even for seemingly innocuous posts.

One Weibo user with over 600,000 followers wrote: “In such a sensitive place as Tibet, I really needn’t worry about whether they’re gonna see my post or not. I posted to vent my anger and scolded the leadership for a bit and within 24 hours the police came to my hotel and asked me to delete my posts. Now that everyone is asking for help like this, they will definitely see it, but they are determined to do this and do so on purpose, it’s clear they don’t care about people’s lives.”

Meanwhile, Chinese official media reporting on the epidemic situation in Tibet stress the collective effort to fight the virus in Lhasa. On September 15, People’s Daily reported how 18 sister provinces and cities across China sent their best teams to Tibet to help with local anti-epidemic work and to bring supplies.

The Tibet-based military blogger ZhufengZhengrong (@珠峰峥嵘) writes: “It’s been over a month and my comrade-in-arms are still fighting on the front line (..). I just hope the epidemic will end soon, and that I will be able to meet my family and hold my children and weep.”

By Manya Koetse 

 

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China and Covid19

Happiest Lockdown in China: Guests Undergo Mandatory Quarantine at Shanghai Disneyland Hotel

“I wish I could be quarantined at Disney too!” The Shanghai Disney hotel apparently is the happiest place to get locked in.

Manya Koetse

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While many cities across China are experiencing new (partial) lockdowns and millions of people are confined to their homes, there was also a group of people that had to undergo mandatory quarantine at a very special place: the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel.

On September 7, social media posts started surfacing online from people who said they were required to quarantine while they were at the Shanghai Disneyland hotel. Disneyland reportedly had received a notification from the local health authorities that a visitor who previously stayed at the Disneyland hotel was found to be a close contact of a newly confirmed Covid case.

In line with the Center for Disease Control requirements, Disney created a ‘closed loop system’ by locking in all hotel residents and staff members and doing daily Covid tests. While the Disneyland theme park was open as usual, the hotel became a temporary isolation site where people’s health would be monitored for the next few days while all staff members would also be screened.

During their mandatory quarantine, guests stayed at the hotel for free and did not need to pay for their rooms. Room prices at the Shanghai Disneyland hotel start at around 3000 yuan/night ($433).

Some guests shared photos of their Disneyland quarantine stay on social media, showing how Disney staff provided them with free breakfast, lunch, a surprise afternoon tea, delicious dinner, fun snacks, and Disney toys and stickers.

On the Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu) app, one Shanghai Disney visitor (nickname @恶霸小提莫) wrote: “We have three meals a day, there is both Chinese and Western-style breakfast, we also get afternoon tea and desserts, they have shrimp, beef, scallops, drinks, French macarons, yogurt, ice cream, and much more. We watched so many Disney movies for free. We are given so many little gifts, they brought us gifts twice today as they also brought us toy figures at night. We watch the fireworks from our windows every night at 8.30 pm. Although we weren’t allowed to go out, we really had a pleasant stay.”

Another Disney guest named Zoea (Xiaohongshu ID: yiya0313) also shared many photos of the mandatory quarantine and wrote: “When the staff knocked on the door to tell me they were bringing dinner, I even wondered how it was possible that they brought food again. Afternoon tea during quarantine, can you believe it? And fruit before dinner? And midnight snacks brought to us after dinner? And it was so nice to watch all the Disney movies on tv. Disney really is the most magical place.”

“I’m just so happy,” another locked-in Disney guest posted on social media, sharing pictures of Mickey Mouse cakes.

Other guests also posted about their experiences on social media. “They probably feared we would get bored so they brought us glue, stickers, and painting brushes, the kids loved it and so did we!”

Reading about the happy quarantine at Disney, many Weibo users responded that they envied the guests, writing: “I wish I could be quarantined at Disney too.”

“I need to find a way to get in, too,” others wrote.

Earlier this year, one Chinese woman shared her story of being quarantined inside a hotpot restaurant for three days. Although many people also envied the woman, who could eat all she wanted during her stay, she later said she felt like she had enough hotpot for the rest of her life.

By Manya Koetse 

 

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