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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

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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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    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

The “Final Round Players” of China’s Covid Outbreak

Those who still haven’t had Covid have made it to the “finals,” but it’s not always easy to stay positive about still testing negative.

Manya Koetse

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This Chinese Lunar New Year period, as millions of people are traveling across the country, Hangzhou Daily (杭州日报) posted a video on Weibo of a 13-year-old boy dressed in full protective clothing at the Hangzhou train station.

The young man told the reporter that he was on his way to visit his grandparents for the Chinese New Year. When asked why he was dressed in protective clothing from head to toe, he answered: “Because I haven’t had Covid yet.”

According to the video posted by Hangzhou Daily, the boy has made it to the “Final Rounds” (决赛圈) as he has managed to stay Covid-negative at a time when so many people have already been infected with Covid-19 (#挺进决赛圈的男孩穿防护服坐火车#).

Since China ‘optimized’ the last stringent measures of its ‘Zero Covid’ policy back in early December – including an end to mandatory mass testing, – a wave of Covid infections spread across the country. The number of infections and emergency department visits reportedly reached its peak in late December of 2022 and in early January of 2023.

According to Wu Zunyou (@吴尊友ChinaCDC), chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center of Disease Control and Prevention, 80 percent of China’s population has now been infected with Covid (“这一波疫情已经使得全国约80%的人感染过”).

As it is getting rarer to come across someone who has not had Covid yet, travelers dressed in full hazmat suits and protective gear are bound to stand out. “So many people on the train, and there are still two people in the crowd wearing protective clothing,” one Weibo user from Guangdong wrote. Others also post photos on social media of some of the few travelers still fully dressed in protective gear.

One blogger photographed a child wearing protective clothing at Chongqing West Station on Jan. 24, calling the protective attire “exaggerated,” and wondering how the child was supposed to go to the toilet.

Photo posted on Weibo by @杨品-光线摄影学院 on Jan 24., 2023.

Traveler wearing protective clothing at Hangzhou East Station, photo by @百鸣老屈.

Hangzhou Daily is not the only media outlet dubbing those who managed to stay negative “final round players” (决赛圈选手). In early January, Beijing Daily (北京日报​​​​) and People’s Daily (人民日报) also published a short article using the same phrase. In the article, the Beijing expert physician Dr. Li Dong (李侗) answered some questions about the so-called ‘finalists.’

According to Dr. Li Dong, some of the people who claim to have managed to stay ‘Covid free’ were never infected due to protective measures. But there are also those who may have actually had Covid-19 without realizing it, as they barely had any symptoms or were completely asymptomatic.

“Final round players, protect yourself!” one Weibo commenter writes: “Who else has managed to reach these finals?”

“As a ‘final player,’ I finally went out to eat and visit the shopping mall today. I’ll have to wait and see if I reach the championship level. If I haven’t caught [Covid], I can go on and lead a normal life; if I did catch it, I’ll need to wait a while, and will also be able to lead a normal life.”

Other persons who did not have Covid yet also share on social media that they went out for the first time during this Spring Festival period: “I cautiously went out and saw my first movie in 2023, Wandering Earth II, I picked a morning screening so that the cinema is not so crowded yet.”

Now that the Covid infections in China have peaked and the number of infected critically ill patients is quickly dropping, the fears over catching Covid are also seemingly fading among those who were not yet infected.

But some people who have not had Covid yet are still being careful, especially if it concerns elderly family members. It’s not always easy to stay positive about still testing negative – also for loved ones who did previously have Covid and want to protect their family.

One Fujian-based social media user writes: “I recovered from Covid and I’m spending the Spring Festival with three ‘final round players.’ We’ve been stuck inside the house for days. I’ve been looking at the lanterns and the lights in the neighborhood, watching them from the balcony, and I really wanted to go down and see.”

“Looking at WeChat Moments, all my friends are out traveling, but my family still hasn’t had Covid and we’re afraid to go out,” another netizen writes: “It’s sad to celebrate the New Year without going out. Guess we’re final-round players now, let’s hope it brings good things.”

Meanwhile, the group of ‘finalists’ is still shrinking. One Weibo user from Guangxi wrote: “I’ve left the finalist circle. It’s only been two days since I returned to my hometown and I’m already infected.”

By Manya Koetse 

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China and Covid19

Video Shows Real-Time “Departure” Information Board at Chinese Crematorium

From “cremation in process” to “cooling down,” the digital display shows the progress of the cremation to provide information to those waiting in the lobby. The crematorium ‘departure’ board strikes a chord with many.

Manya Koetse

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A video showing a live display screen announcing the names and status of the deceased at a Yunnan crematorium has been making its rounds on Chinese social media, from WeChat to Weibo, where one version of the video received over 1,7 million views.

Somewhat similar to a real-time platform departure display on train stations, the screen shows the waiting number of the deceased person, their name, gender, the name of the lounge/room (if any) for families, the name of the crematorium chamber, and the status of the cremation process. Below in the screen, it says “the final journey of a warm life” (温暖人生的最后旅程).

For example, the screen displays the names of a Mr. Chen and a Mr. Li; their bodies were in the process of being cremated (火化中), while other cremations were marked as “completed” (完成) or “cooling down” (降温中).

Through such a screen, located in the crematorium lobby, family members and loved ones can learn about the progress of the cremation of the deceased.

The video, recorded by a local on Jan. 7, received many comments. Among them, some people commented on the information board itself, while others simply expressed grief over those who died and the fragility of life. Many felt the display was confronting and it made them emotional.

“It makes me really sad that this how people’s lives end,” one commenter said, with another person replying that the display also shows you still need to wait in line even when you’re dead.

“I didn’t expect the screens [in the crematorium] to be like those in hospitals, where patients are waiting for their turn,” another Weibo user wrote. “It would be better if the names were hidden, like in the hospitals, to protect the privacy of the deceased,” another person replied.

Others shared their own experiences at funeral parlors also using such information screens.

Another ‘departure display’ at a Chinese crematorium, image shared by Weibo user.

“My grandfather passed away last September, and when we were at the undertaker’s, the display was also jumping from one name to the other and we could only comfort ourselves knowing that he was among those who lived a relatively long life.”

“Such a screen, it really makes me sad,” another commenter from Guangxi wrote, with others writing: “It’s distressing technology.”

Although the information screen at the crematorium is a novelty for many commenters, the phenomenon itself is not necessarily related to the Covid outbreak and the number of Covid-related deaths; some people share how they have seen them in crematoriums before, and funeral parlor businesses have used them to provide information to families since at least 2018.

According to an article published by Sohu News, more people – especially younger ones – have visited a funeral home for the first time in their lives recently due to the current Covid wave, also making it the first time for them to come across such a digital display.

The online video of such an information board has made an impact at a time when crematoriums are crowded and families report waiting for days to bury or cremate their loved ones, with especially a large number of elderly people dying due to Covid.

On Jan. 4, one social media user from Liaoning wrote:

I really suggest that the experts go to the crematoriums to take a look. There is no place to put the deceased, they’re parked outside in temporary containers, there’s no time left to hold a farewell ceremony and you can only directly cremate, and for those who were able to have a ceremony, they need to finish within ten minutes (..) At the funeral parlor’s big screen, there were eight names on every page, and there were ten pages for all the people in line that day, I stood there for half an hour and didn’t see the name of the person I was waiting for pop up anymore.”

As the video of the display in the crematorium travels around the internet, many commenters suggest that it is not necessarily the real-time ‘departure’ board itself that bothers them, but how it shows the harsh reality of death by listing the names of the deceased and their cremation status behind it. Perhaps it is the contrast between the technology of the digital display boards and the reality of the human vulnerability that it represents that strikes a chord with people.

One blogger who reposted the video on Jan. 13 wrote: “Life is short, cherish the present, let’s cherish what we have and love yourself, love your family, and love this world.” Among dozens of replies, some indicate that the video makes them feel uncomfortable.

Another commenter also wrote:

I just saw a video that showed an electronic display at a crematorium, rolling out the names of the deceased and the stage of the cremation. One name represents the ending of a life. And it just hit me, and my tears started flowing. I’m afraid of parting, I’m afraid of loss, I just want the people I love and who love me to stay by my side forever. I don’t want to leave. I’m afraid I’ll be alone one day, and that nobody will ever make me feel warm again.”

One person captured why the information board perhaps causes such unease: “The final moments that people still spent on this earth take place on the electronic screen in the memorial hall of the funeral home. Then, they are gone without a sound.”

 

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By Manya Koetse 
with contributions by Zilan Qian

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 info@whatsonweibo.com.

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