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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.

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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 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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  1. 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

Fangcang Forever: China’s Temporary Covid19 Makeshift Hospitals To Become Permanent

China’s temporary ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are here to stay.

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A new term has been added to China’s pandemic lexicon today: Permanent Fangcang Hospital. Although China’s ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are, by definition, temporary, these healthcare facilities to isolate and treat Covid patients are now becoming a permanent feature of China’s Zero-Covid approach.

Over the past few days, Chinese authorities have emphasized the need for China’s bigger cities to build or renovate existing makeshift Covid hospitals, and turn them into permanent sites.

So-called ‘Fangcang hospitals’ (方舱医院, square cabin hospitals) are large, temporary makeshift shelter hospitals to isolate and treat Covid-19 patients. Fangcang shelter hospitals were first established in China during the Wuhan outbreak as a countermeasure to stop the spread of the virus.

January 5 2022, a Fangcang or Isolation Point with over 1000 separate isolations rooms is constructed in Baqiao District of Xi’an (Image via Renmin Shijue).

They have since become an important part of China’s management of the pandemic and the country’s Zero-Covid policy as a place to isolate and treat people who have tested positive for Covid-19, both asymptomatic and mild-to-moderate symptomatic cases. In this way, the Fangcang hospitals alleviate the pressure on (designated) hospitals, so that they have more beds for patients with serious or severe symptoms.

On May 5th, Chinese state media reported about an important top leadership meeting regarding China’s Covid-19 situation. In this meeting, the Politburo Standing Committee stressed that China would “unswervingly adhere to the general Zero-Covid policy” and that victory over the virus would come with persistence. At the meeting, chaired by Xi Jinping, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee also declared that China would fight against any words or acts that “distort, doubt, or deny” the country’s dynamic Zero-Covid policy.

Life inside one of Shanghai’s Fangcang, photo via UDN.com.

Following the meeting, there have been multiple official reports and statements that provide a peek into China’s ‘zero Covid’ future.

On May 13, China’s National Health Commission called on all provinces to build or renovate city-level Fangcang hospitals, and to make sure they are equipped with electricity, ventilation systems, medical appliances, toilets, and washing facilities (Weibo hashtag ##以地级市为单位建设或者改造方舱医院#).

On May 16, the term ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital’ (Weibo hashtag #永久性方舱医院) became a trending topic on Weibo after Ma Xiaowei (马晓伟), Minister of China’s National Health Commission, introduced the term in Qiushi (求是), the leading official theoretical journal of the Chinese Communist Party.

The term is new and is somewhat contradictory as a concept, since ‘Fangcang hospitals’ are actually defined by their temporary nature.

Ma Xiaowei stressed the need for Chinese bigger cities to be ready for the next stage of China’s Covid control. This also includes the need for some central ‘Fangcang’ makeshift hospitals to become permanent ones.

In order to ‘normalize’ the control and monitoring that comes with living in Zero-Covid society, Chinese provincial capitals and bigger cities (more than ten million inhabitants) should do more to improve Covid testing capacities and procedures. Ma proposes that there should be nucleic acid sample collection points across the city within a 15-minute walking distance radius, and testing frequency should be increased to maximize efficient control and prevention.

Cities should be prepared to take in patients for isolation and/or treatment at designated hospitals, centralized isolation sites, and the permanent Fangcang hospitals. The recent Covid outbreak in Shanghai showed that local authorities were unprepared to deal with the outbreak, and sites that were used as Fangcang hospitals often lacked proper facilities, leading to chaotic scenes.

A Fangcang Isolation Center in Quanzhou, March 2022, via People’s Daily.

The hashtag “Permanent Fangcang Hospitals” received over 140 million views on Weibo on Monday.

One of the Weibo threads by state media reporting on the Permanent Fangcang hospitals and the publication by Ma Xiaowei received nearly 2000 comments, yet the comment section only displayed three comments praising the newly announced measures, leaving out the other 1987 comments.

Elsewhere on Weibo, people shared their views on the Permanent Fangcang Hospitals, and most were not very positive – most commenters shared their worries about China’s Covid situation about the stringent measures being a never-ending story.

“We’re normalizing nucleic acid test, we’re introducing permanent fangcang hospitals, [but] why isn’t the third Covid vaccination coming through?” one person wondered.

“If there was still a little bit of passion inside me, it was just killed by reading these words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital,'” another commenter writes, with one Weibo user adding: “I feel desperate hearing the words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital.'”

“Building permanent Fangcang? Why? Why don’t you use the resources you’re now spending on normalizing testing to create more hospital beds, more medical staff and more medications?”

Another commenter wrote: “China itself is one giant permanent Fangcang hospital.”

“The forever Fangcang are being built,” one Weibo user from Guangdong writes: “This will never end. We’ll be locked up like birds in a cage for our entire life.”

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

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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Featured image via user tongtong [nickname] Weibo.com.

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China and Covid19

These Are China’s Ten Brand-New Stadiums That Will NOT Be Used for the 2023 Asia Cup

Billions were spent on the venues to host the Asia Cup, what will happen to them now that China will no longer be the host country?

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China’s withdrawal as the 2023 Asia Cup host leaves netizens wondering: “Will these newly built stadiums become Covid quarantine centers instead?” These are the ten stadiums that will not be used for next year’s Asia Cup.

News that China will no longer host the 2023 Asia Cup due to the Covid situation has left Chinese netizens wondering what will happen to the mega venues constructed especially for the event.

On Saturday, May 14, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) released a statement saying that, following extensive discussions with the Chinese Football Association (CFA), they were informed by the CFA that it would not be able to host the 2023 AFC Asian Cup due to circumstances caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The event was planned to take place from June 16 to July 16, 2023, across ten Chinese cities: Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, Chengdu, Xi’an, Dalian, Qingdao, Xiamen, and Suzhou.

On Weibo, one popular post listed ten stadiums that were renovated or newly built to host the 2023 Asia Cup, adding the alleged (staggering) construction/renovation costs.

1. Xiamen Bailu Stadium: costs 3.5 billion [$515.5 million].
2. Qingdao Youth Football Stadium: costs 3.2 billion [$470 million].
3. Chongqing Longxing Stadium: costs 2.7 billion [$397.7 million].
4. Xi’an International Football Center: costs 2.395 billion [$352.7 million].
5. Dalian Suoyuwan Football Stadium: costs 1.88 billion [$277 million].
6. Chengdu Phoenix Hill Stadium: costs 1.865 billion [$274.7 million].
7. SAIC Motor Pudong Arena: costs 1.807 billion [$266 million].
8. Suzhou Kunshan Football Stadium: costs 1.6 billion [$235.6 million].
9. Tianjin Binhai Football Stadium: the renovation cost 320 million [$47 million].
10. New Beijing Gongti Stadium: renovation cost 280 million [$41.2 million].

All of these stadiums were built or renovated for the Asia Cup on a tight schedule, as there was just a three-year timeframe from design to construction completion. In the summer of 2019, it was confirmed that China would host the Asia Cup.

Now that these venues will not be used for the Asia Cup, many netizens are wondering what will happen to them.

One of the most popular answers to that question was: “Perhaps they should be turned into makeshift hospitals [fangcang].”

Fangcang, China’s ‘square cabin’ makeshift Covid hospitals, are seen as a key solution in China’s fight against the virus. Together with mass testing and local lockdowns, the Fangcang have become an important phenomenon in China’s dynamic zero-Covid policy.

Since every city needs quarantine locations to be prepared for a potential local outbreak, many people half-jokingly say the venues would be more useful as Covid isolation points if they are not used for the Asia Cup anyway.

“So many great stadiums, what a waste,” some commenters write, with others suggesting the stadiums should be opened up for the people to use and enjoy.

In response to China’s withdrawal as the 2023 Asia Cup host, another popular comment said: “China has taken the lead in achieving Zero at the level of major sports events,” jokingly referring to the country’s Zero-Covid policy that currently impacts all aspects of society.

For others, the announcement that China would not host the Asia Cup came as a shock. Not necessarily because of the cancelation of the event itself, but because it made them realize that China’s stringent measures and Zero-Covid policy can be expected to continue well into 2023: “How did it get this far? I thought the country would open up after the general meeting,” one person wrote, referring to the Communist Party National Congress that is set for autumn 2022.

Another Weibo user wrote: “They finally said it. The Asia Cup will be hosted by another country because our Strong Country will continue to stay sealed, the money spent on building all these venues is going to go to waste.”

“The point that many people missed is that the Asian Cup is no longer being held in China because China refuses to hold the event in ‘full open mode’ as requested by foreign countries,” another commenter wrote. Some people praised the decision, calling it “courageous” for China to persist in handling the pandemic in its own way.

Others are hopeful that all of the money spent on the venues won’t be in vain, and that China can use these venues to still host the World Cup in the future.

Below is the list of the ten brand-new venues where the Asia Cup is not going to take place.

 

1. The Xiamen Bailu Stadium (厦门白鹭体育场)

The Bailu Stadium in Xiamen is an impressive construction with a steel structure similar to that of Beijing Bird’s Nest, and, like most of the stadiums in this list, it was designed especially for the 2023 Asia Cup.

Expected to be finished by late 2022, the building does not just offer a beautiful sea view, it is also fully multifunctional and has a floor area of 180,600 square meters and a capacity of 60,000 seats. It is the first professional soccer stadium in China that can switch from a soccer field to an athletic field. The inner and outer circles of the seating area can be moved to transform the stadium.

 

2. Qingdao Youth Football Stadium (青岛青春足球场)

The Qingdao Youth Football Stadium, a high-standard soccer stadium with a capacity of 50,000 people, is the first major professional soccer stadium in Shandong Province.

The stadium, located in the city’s Chengyang District, started its construction in 2020 and the entire stadium with a floor area of 163,395 square meters, is expected to be finalized by late 2022.

 

3. Chongqing Longxing Stadium (重庆龙兴体育场)

Like most of the other stadiums on this list, the Chongqing Longxing Stadium started to be constructed in 2020 and the 60,000-capacity football stadium is expected to be finished in December 2022.

The design of the stadium is based on a twirling flame, meant to convey the hot image of Chongqing (the city of hotpot) and the burning Asian Cup football passion. Aerial photos published by state media in March of 2022 show that the construction of the roof and decorations has come to the final stage.

 

4. Xi’an International Football Center (西安国际足球中心)

The Xi’an International Football Center is a Zaha Hadid project, which is the same architects office to design prestigious buildings in China such as the Beijing Daxing International Airport or the Galaxy SOHO.

On their site, they write that the Footbal Centre, which started construction in 2020, is a 60,000-seat stadium in Xi’ans Fengdong New District. Besides the arena, the stadium will also provide recreational spaces for the city.

 

5. Dalian Suoyuwan Football Stadium (大连梭鱼湾足球场)

Located on the Dalian Bay, this is a spectacular new 63,000-capacity stadium that was, obviously, also meant to host the AFC Asian Cup in 2023 and to provide a home for the Dalian Professional Football Club.

An animation of the design for the Dalian Football Stadium can be viewed here.

 

6. Chengdu Phoenix Hill Stadium (成都凤凰山体育场)

The Chengdu Phoenix Hill Stadium consists of a a 60,000-seat stadium and an 18,000-seat standard arena. The large open-cable dome structure is reportedly the first of its kind in China.

Besides football, the venue will also be able to host other major tournaments, including ice hockey, badminton, table tennis, handball, and gymnastics.

 

7. SAIC Motor Pudong Arena (上汽浦东足球场)

The Shanghai Pudong Football Stadium, currently named SAIC Motor Pudong Arena, was supposed to be one of the stadiums used for the AFC Asian Cup, but it was not necessarily built for that purpose.

The 33,765-seat stadium, which is supposed to remind you of a Chinese porcelain bowl, is home to the football association Shanghai Port FC and was the first football-specific stadium designated for a club in China. Its construction, which started in 2018, was finished by late 2020.

 

8. Suzhou Kunshan Football Stadium (苏州昆山足球场)

The Suzhou Kunshan Football Stadium is the first professional soccer stadium in Jiangsu. With a total construction area of ​​135,000 square meters, the stadium can accommodate about 45,000 spectators.

The design of the building is inspired by the Chinese traditional “folding fan.” More pictures of the venue can be seen here.

 

9. Tianjin Binhai Football Stadium (天津滨海足球场)

The TEDA football stadium in Tianjin has been fully renovated and upgraded to host the 2023 Asia Cup. The stadium, build in 2004, originally could hold 37,450 people. The renovations of the original stadium started this year and the construction work was expected to take about six months.

 

10 . New Beijing Gongti Stadium (新北京工体)

Beijing’s old Workers’ Stadium or Gongti was closed in 2020 to be renovated and reopened bt December 2022, in time for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. The Beijinger reported on the venue’s renovating process, with the stadium’s capacity increasing to 68,000, with the venue getting an all-new roof structure.

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

For more articles on hot topics related to architecture in China, check here.

By Manya Koetse

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly 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.

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

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