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China and Covid19

Shanghai Lockdown on Social Media: “Panic Surrounding Epidemic More Dangerous than Epidemic Itself”

In the midst of the Shanghai phased lockdown, some on social media say present-day Shanghai feels like two worlds in one city.

Manya Koetse



As the stress of the Shanghai lockdown is taking its toll on people, many on social media are asking for help and are wondering if the panic surrounding the epidemic is more harmful than the epidemic itself.

On Sunday, March 27, local authorities in Shanghai announced that in light of the unprecedented Covid-19 spike in the city, parts of the city were going into lockdown. The city’s shutdown was planned to take place in two stages, with the eastern side of the city going into lockdown until 1 April, and the western side from 1-5 April, but the lockdown was already extended on Thursday night.

The Shanghai lockdowns are taking place amidst China’s worst Covid-19 outbreak since Wuhan. From March 1 to March 31st, the country saw a total of 103965 new cases across 29 provinces, as stated by Lei Zhenglong (雷正龙), the deputy head of the National Health Commission (NHC)’s Bureau of Disease Prevention and Control, with 90% of all Covid-19 cases found in Jilin province and Shanghai.

Since the Shanghai Covid-19 situation has become grimmer, many stories have come out on Chinese social media of citizens who are struggling to get their medicine, are not getting the medical care they need, or those stories about children and elderly left to their own devices without proper care. Some of these people are inside locked-down communities, others are quarantined at a local hospital or another quarantine facility.

One Weibo post of March 31st said:

“Help! The parents both tested positive and were taken away for isolation, the child is alone at home. The neighborhood committee is not listening, please help this child!”

The post asked for help for a 10-year-old girl left at home alone in the Pudong district of Shanghai. Since the girl allegedly tested negative, she could stay at home while her caregivers had to leave. According to the Weibo post, the girl was crying and the neighbours called for help for her, but so far she had not received any and was still all by herself in the apartment.

Also on March 31st, one person suffering from renal (kidney) disease called out for help on Weibo after missing out on his daily dialysis treatment for ten days already. The 41-year-old man, named Huang, tested positive for Covid-19 on March 27 and was transferred to the Fifth People’s Hospital of Shanghai Fudan University for quarantine on March 30. Huang wrote on Weibo:

“I haven’t been able to eat or drink for four days. My entire body is swollen and I can’t urinate. I beg the Shanghai government to hurry up and let me get dialysis, please save my life, I can’t die, I have parents and children to take care of, I need to survive. I beg you, help me.”

Huang’s post was forwarded over 25,000 times and received hundreds of comments. Not long after, his entire account was deleted. “Shanghai, what’s happening?,” one person wondered.

A day earlier, on March 30, news surfaced on social media that one person living in Shanghai’s Pudong district was not able to get proper emergency care after suffering from an asthma attack. The person allegedly called the emergency line at 8 am but the ambulance did not arrive until 9.40 am. They had already passed away by then. On March 31st, the Shanghai Pudong Health Care Commission publicly apologized for the incident and said that the emergency doctor in question had been suspended for not adequately responding to the situation (#官方回应上海哮喘老人救助无效去世#).

A week before, on March 23, a Shanghai nurse also died of an asthma attack because the Covid-19 restrictions at the hospital she worked for prevented her from getting treatment there.

These stories and others have generated many discussions on Chinese social media over the past week about the way in which Shanghai is dealing with the Covid-19 surge and the overall direction the epidemic measurements in China are heading.

One popular article posted on WeChat on April 1st is titled “More Dangerous than the Epidemic Is the Panic Surrounding the Epidemic” (“比疫情更危险的,是对疫情的恐慌”). In this article -since deleted- the author shares some thoughts about the Shanghai lockdown and the panic that broke out among residents once it became clear that they would have to stay inside. Videos of people fighting over food at the supermarkets went viral as so many residents rushed to the stores to fill up their carts with vegetables and noodles (see Twitter thread here).

“I thought that since two years have already passed, the people would be able to treat the now weakened virus more rationally, but actually the reality is not at all like this – many people are still living in a state of panic, and the contagious effect of this kind of panic has generated a wider sense of panic. Looking at Shanghai now, the people are not just afraid of Covid-19, but more afraid of not being able to buy vegetables, no being able to get medication or see a doctor, not getting timely help in case of an emergency,…People in Shanghai now are not afraid of testing positive but they are afraid of being taken to a quarantine site where nobody care about you. Every family living together with elderly or small children can only pray that nobody falls ill during the lockdown. What would otherwise be a small problem could now become a big problem, what would otherwise be a big problem could now become fatal.”

In response to the story about the 10-year-old girl being left home all alone, one Weibo commenter wrote:

“If we can’t even protect the lives of the helpless, the small and the weak, then what? I would do anything to protect them and save them, not because I’m showing off, but because it’s the humane thing to do. I’d really like to ask this society: we were once courageous and fearless, where did it go?”

Another Weibo user posted on April 1st:

“We’re in Pudong. We were previously aware that it was going to be difficult and still went to the supermarket when we could. Before they said takeout and express delivery would be available, now there is nothing. Not a single supermarket is opened, the last shop that was still doing take-out delivery has now also closed. We still have our kitchen stove and some reserves, we can cook meals. But there are many Shanghai drifters [non-locals who work in the city] who don’t have takeaway and no vegetables to eat. (..) I support the fight against the epidemic and I don’t agree with opening everything up. But we should choose the lesser of two evils between the reality of people breaking down because they are not able to eat; not able to see a doctor; not able to get one single dish; not able to leave the house at all, and the risks we face if we’d let society proceed normally. I’m just a normal citizen, not some foreign influence, and I’m just describing what I see as someone who is right in the middle of it.”

One aspect of the Shanghai Covid-19 crisis that has been highlighted by some social media users is that the experiences of people throughout the city are sometimes wildly different depending on their community and district location.

One Weibo user nicknamed ‘Panda Eating Winter Bamboo Shoots’ wrote just before the lockdown:

“Our community has already been in lockdown for ten days, and tomorrow Pudong will also be locked down for four days. I’m seeing people who are free going to the supermarket since early morning, frantically grabbing food, while the ones who are not free like us are just sitting at home, worried. We’re in the same Shanghai, yet our situations are worlds apart (..) Friends in areas that are not in lockdown are ordering takeaway, going out shopping, buying coffee, and people are still not wearing face masks when visiting trendy restaurants.”

Another Weibo blogger wrote on April 1st: “I’ve been in lockdown for 17 days and have been seeing pictures online of influencers in Shanghai posting selfies and leaving their house for food, while here I am – locked up inside.”

After the eastern side of the city went into lockdown, one commenter wrote: “Shanghai really is like two worlds now. Discontent is openly voiced in the enemy-held territory, the liberated area is undisturbed.”

“But we are still all struggling to buy vegetables,” one person responded, while others stressed that many people in Pudong were really becoming desperate due to a lack of food and organized help for them.

At the same time, more photos are popping up everywhere on social media of food packages provided to people by the Shanghai government (#上海发菜#). Very much like the situation in Xi’an during the lockdown earlier this year, people are expressing gratefulness for receiving food at a time when so many are stressing about not having enough to eat.

One person on Weibo writes what so many are wondering: “Shanghai, when will you go back to normal?”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

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

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of 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 Contact at, or follow on Twitter.

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    charles webster baer

    April 3, 2022 at 8:55 am

    I want to move to china next year to teach english .

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China and Covid19

Sick Kids, Worried Parents, Overcrowded Hospitals: China’s Peak Flu Season on the Way

“Besides Mycoplasma infections, cases include influenza, Covid-19, Norovirus, and Adenovirus. Heading straight to the hospital could mean entering a cesspool of viruses.”

Manya Koetse



In the early morning of November 21, parents are already queuing up at Xi’an Children’s Hospital with their sons and daughters. It’s not even the line for a doctor’s appointment, but rather for the removal of IV needles.

The scene was captured in a recent video, only one among many videos and images that have been making their rounds on Chinese social media these days (#凌晨的儿童医院拔针也要排队#).

One photo shows a bulletin board at a local hospital warning parents that over 700 patients are waiting in line, estimating a waiting time of more than 13 hours to see a doctor.

Another image shows children doing their homework while hooked up on an IV.

Recent discussions on Chinese social media platforms have highlighted a notable surge in flu cases. The ongoing flu season is particularly impacting children, with multiple viruses concurrently circulating and contributing to a high incidence of respiratory infections.

Among the prevalent respiratory infections affecting children are Mycoplasma pneumoniae infections, influenza, and Adenovirus infection.

The spike in flu cases has resulted in overcrowded children’s hospitals in Beijing and other Chinese cities. Parents sometimes have to wait in line for hours to get an appointment or pick up medication.

According to one reporter at Haibao News (海报新闻), there were so many patients at the Children’s Hospital of Capital Institute of Pediatrics (首都儿科研究所) on November 21st that the outpatient desk stopped accepting new patients by the afternoon. Meanwhile, 628 people were waiting in line to see a doctor at the emergency department.

Reflecting on the past few years, the current flu season marks China’s first ‘normal’ flu peak season since the outbreak of Covid-19 in late 2019 / early 2020 and the end of its stringent zero-Covid policies in December 2022. Compared to many other countries, wearing masks was also commonplace for much longer following the relaxation of Covid policies.

Hu Xijin, the well-known political commentator, noted on Weibo that this year’s flu season seems to be far worse than that of the years before. He also shared that his own granddaughter was suffering from a 40 degrees fever.

“We’re all running a fever in our home. But I didn’t dare to go to the hospital today, although I want my child to go to the hospital tomorrow. I heard waiting times are up to five hours now,” one Weibo user wrote.

“Half of the kids in my child’s class are sick now. The hospital is overflowing with people,” another person commented.

One mother described how her 7-year-old child had been running a fever for eight days already. Seeking medical attention on the first day, the initial diagnosis was a cold. As the fever persisted, daily visits to the hospital ensued, involving multiple hours for IV fluid administration.

While this account stems from a single Weibo post within a fever-advice community, it highlights a broader trend: many parents swiftly resort to hospital visits at the first signs of flu or fever. Several factors contribute to this, including a lack of General Practitioners in China, making hospitals the primary choice for medical consultations also in non-urgent cases.

There is also a strong belief in the efficacy of IV infusion therapy, whether fluid-based or containing medication, as the quickest path to recovery. Multiple factors contribute to the widespread and sometimes irrational use of IV infusions in China. Some clinics are profit-driven and see IV infusions as a way to make more money. Widespread expectations among Chinese patients that IV infusions will make them feel better also play a role, along with some physicians’ lacking knowledge of IV therapy or their uncertainty to distinguish bacterial from viral infections (read more here)

To prevent an overwhelming influx of patients to hospitals, Chinese state media, citing specialists, advise parents to seek medical attention at the hospital only for sick infants under three months old displaying clear signs of fever (with or without cough). For older children, it is recommended to consult a doctor if a high fever persists for 3 to 5 days or if there is a deterioration in respiratory symptoms. Children dealing with fever and (mild) respiratory symptoms can otherwise recover at home.

One Weibo blogger (@奶霸知道) warned parents that taking their child straight to the hospital on the first day of them getting sick could actually be a bad idea. They write:

“(..) pediatric departments are already packed with patients, and it’s not just Mycoplasma infections anymore. Cases include influenza, Covid-19, Norovirus, and Adenovirus. And then, of course, those with bad luck are cross-infected with multiple viruses at the same time, leading to endless cycles. Therefore, if your child experiences mild coughing or a slight fever, consider observing at home first. Heading straight to the hospital could mean entering a cesspool of viruses.”

The hashtag for “fever” saw over 350 million clicks on Weibo within one day on November 22.

Meanwhile, there are also other ongoing discussions on Weibo surrounding the current flu season. One topic revolves around whether children should continue doing their homework while receiving IV fluids in the hospital. Some hospitals have designated special desks and study areas for children.

Although some commenters commend the hospitals for being so considerate, others also remind the parents not to pressure their kids too much and to let them rest when they are not feeling well.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions from Miranda Barnes

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©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

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China and Covid19

Repurposing China’s Abandoned Nucleic Acid Booths: 10 Innovative Transformations

Abandoned nucleic acid booths are getting a second life through these new initiatives.

Manya Koetse



During the pandemic, nucleic acid testing booths in Chinese cities were primarily focused on maintaining physical distance. Now, empty booths are being repurposed to bring people together, serving as new spaces to serve the community and promote social engagement.

Just months ago, nucleic acid testing booths were the most lively spots of some Chinese cities. During the 2022 Shanghai summer, for example, there were massive queues in front of the city’s nucleic acid booths, as people needed a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours for accessing public transport, going to work, or visiting markets and malls.

The word ‘hésuān tíng‘ (核酸亭), nucleic acid booth (also:核酸采样小屋), became a part of China’s pandemic lexicon, just like hésuān dìtú (核酸地图), the nucleic acid test map lauched in May 2022 that would show where you can get a nucleic test.

Example of nucleic acid test map.

During Halloween parties in Shanghai in 2022, some people even came dressed up as nucleic test booths – although local authorities could not appreciate the creative costume.

Halloween 2022: dressed up as nucliec acid booths. Via @manyapan twitter.

In December 2022, along with the announced changed rules in China’s ‘zero Covid’ approach, nucleic acid booths were suddenly left dismantled and empty.

With many cities spending millions to set up these booths in central locations, the question soon arose: what should they do with the abandoned booths?

This question also relates to who actually owns them, since the ownership is mixed. Some booths were purchased by authorities, others were bought by companies, and there are also local communities owning their own testing booths. Depending on the contracts and legal implications, not all booths are able to get a new function or be removed yet (Worker’s Daily).

In Tianjin, a total of 266 nucleic acid booths located in Jinghai District were listed for public acquisition earlier this month, and they were acquired for 4.78 million yuan (US$683.300) by a local food and beverage company which will transform the booths into convenience service points, selling snacks or providing other services.

Tianjin is not the only city where old nucleic acid testing booths are being repurposed. While some booths have been discarded, some companies and/or local governments – in cooperation with local communities – have demonstrated creativity by transforming the booths into new landmarks. Since the start of 2023, different cities and districts across China have already begun to repurpose testing booths. Here, we will explore ten different way in which China’s abandoned nucleic test booths get a second chance at a meaningful existence.


1: Pharmacy/Medical Booths

Via ‘copyquan’ republished on Sohu.

Blogger ‘copyquan’ recently explored various ways in which abandoned PCR testing points are being repurposed.

One way in which they are used is as small pharmacies or as medical service points for local residents (居民医疗点). Alleviating the strain on hospitals and pharmacies, this was one of the earliest ways in which the booths were repurposed back in December of 2022 and January of 2023.

Chongqing, Tianjin, and Suzhou were among earlier cities where some testing booths were transformed into convenient medical facilities.


2: Market Stalls

Market stalls instead of nucliec acid testing booths. Image via Sina.

In Suzhou, Jiangsu province, the local government transformed vacant nucleic acid booths into market stalls for the Spring Festival in January 2022, offering them free of charge to businesses to sell local products, snacks, and traditional New Year goods.

The idea was not just meant as a way for small businesses to conveniently sell to local residents, it was also meant as a way to attract more shoppers and promote other businesses in the neighborhood.


3: Community Service Center

Small grid community center in Shizhuang Village, image via Sohu.

Some residential areas have transformed their local nucleic acid testing booths into community service centers, offering all kinds of convenient services to neighborhood residents.

These little station are called wǎnggé yìzhàn (网格驿站) or “grid service stations,” and they can serve as small community centers where residents can get various kinds of care and support.


4: “Refuel” Stations

In February of this year, 100 idle nucleic acid sampling booths were transformed into so-called “Rider Refuel Stations” (骑士加油站) in Zhejiang’s Pinghu. Although it initially sounds like a place where delivery riders can fill up their fuel tanks, it is actually meant as a place where they themselves can recharge.

Delivery riders and other outdoor workers can come to the ‘refuel’ station to drink some water or tea, warm their hands, warm up some food and take a quick nap.


5: Free Libraries

image via sohu.

In various Chinese cities, abandoned nucleic acid booths have been transformed into little free libraries where people can grab some books to read, donate or return other books, and sit down for some reading.

Changzhou is one of the places where you’ll find such “drifting bookstores” (漂流书屋) (see video), but similar initiatives have also been launched in other places, including Suzhou.


6: Study Space

Photos via Copyquan’s article on Sohu.

Another innovative way in which old testing points are being repurposed is by turning them into places where students can sit together to study. The so-called “Let’s Study Space” (一间习吧), fully airconditioned, are opened from 8 in the morning until 22:00 at night.

Students – or any citizens who would like a nice place to study – can make online reservations with their ID cards and scan a QR code to enter the study rooms.

There are currently ten study booths in Anji, and the popular project is an initiative by the Anji County Library in Zhejiang (see video).


7: Beer Kiosk

Hoegaarden beer shop, image via Creative Adquan.

Changing an old nucleic acid testing booth into a beer bar is a marketing initiative by the Shanghai McCann ad agency for the Belgium beer brand Hoegaarden.

The idea behind the bar is to celebrate a new spring after the pandemic. The ad agency has revamped a total of six formr nucleic acid booths into small Hoegaarden ‘beer gardens.’


8: Police Box

In Taizhou City, Jiangsu Province, authorities have repurposed old testing booths and transformed them into ‘police boxes’ (警务岗亭) to enhance security and improve the visibility of city police among the public.

Currently, a total of eight vacant nucleic acid booths have been renovated into modern police stations, serving as key points for police presence and interaction with the community.


9: Lottery Ticket Booths

Image via The Paper

Some nucleic acid booths have now been turned into small shops selling lottery tickets for the China Welfare Lottery. One such place turning the kiosks into lottery shops is Songjiang in Shanghai.

Using the booths like this is a win-win situation: they are placed in central locations so it is more convenient for locals to get their lottery tickets, and on the other hand, the sales also help the community, as the profits are used for welfare projects, including care for the elderly.


10: Mini Fire Stations

Micro fire stations, images via ZjNews.

Some communities decided that it would be useful to repurpose the testing points and turn them into mini fire kiosks, just allowing enough space for the necessary equipment to quickly respond to fire emergencies.

Want to read more about the end of ‘zero Covid’ in China? Check our other articles here.

By Manya Koetse,

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

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