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China and Covid19

Trending on Weibo: “Why Can’t Shanghai Residents with Covid-19 Recover at Home?”

While Chinese top experts stress that Covid patients can not recover at home, Shanghai’s centralized quarantine locations are anything but a home away from home.

Manya Koetse

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According to China’s strict Covid measures, everyone testing positive during Shanghai’s current outbreak needs to go to a centralized quarantine location. While Chinese top experts say home isolation is not an option, Shanghai residents complain about the deplorable conditions at the isolation centers.

While Shanghai is battling the worst Covid outbreak the city has ever seen and infection numbers continue to rise, today’s number one hashtag on social media platform Weibo is: “Why Can’t People Infected with Covid-19 Isolate at Home?” (#新冠感染者为什么不能居家隔离#).

Trending topic list of Weibo, April 11 2022.

Since Shanghai’s current outbreak started on March 1, the city’s 26 million residents have been seeing stringent anti-epidemic measures, including a citywide lockdown and mass testing campaigns. This month, frustrations have been building among residents who struggle to get food, medications, and urgent medical care amid China’s dynamic zero-infection policy.

China’s so-called ‘zero-Covid policy’ is all about rapidly responding to new Covid cases, precise prevention measures, and controlling and extinguishing local outbreaks as fast as possible to avoid further spread of the virus and drastically reduce the number of people getting sick and dying. As part of this strategy, people who test positive for Covid-19 are sent to centralized facilities for a mandatory quarantine.

It’s not just people at home who have been struggling during this lockdown – many also face difficulties in getting basic medical care or adequate supplies at these centralized quarantine centers. Videos circulating on Chinese social media expose how people at some isolation facilities are fighting over food or are facing unhygienic living conditions.

The apparent disorganization at some quarantine facilities has triggered discussions on Chinese social media, where many are wondering why people who barely show any Covid symptoms should still be quarantined at centralized locations. Besides the fact that many of these quarantine facilities are far less comfortable than people’s own home environment (there are usually no private rooms, no showers, etc), people also fear cross-infection or re-infection due to the crowded and sometimes chaotic living conditions.

The state of the toilets at one Pudong quarantine location.

Due to a lack of medical staff, many of these facilities cannot offer adequate medical care to Covid patients who need it. Additionally, people who test positive for Covid-19 and are required to go to a quarantine location also cannot take care of pets or vulnerable family members who test negative and are left at home by themselves.

Last week, two dog owners who were taken away to a quarantine location left their Corgi dog on the streets because they feared it would starve to death if they would leave it inside their home. The dog was killed by an anti-epidemic worker shortly after. This incident also triggered massive outrage online and fuelled discussions on the need to be quarantined at a designated location rather than being allowed to stay at home.

On Weibo, the hashtag “Why Can’t People Infected with Covid-19 Isolate at Home?” received over 160 million views on Monday. The topic was initiated by the Daily Economic News (@每日经济新闻) account, which posted a video showing the renowned Chinese top epidemiologist Liang Wannian (梁万年) stressing the importance of China’s zero-Covid strategy and centralized isolation policy in light of the rapid growth in Omicron infections.

According to Liang, isolating asymptomatic or mildly ill Covid patients at home may cause further spread of the virus, especially because Omicron spreads so quickly. Even though they have mild symptoms, these Covid patients are still contagious and could spread the virus to their families and beyond. Liang also argued that patients need to be isolated at a centralized location because they can be easily monitored and treated that way.

Liang also addressed the problem of ‘people waiting for beds’ (“人等床”). Some people from Shanghai sharing their Covid journey online have expressed their frustration with being taken away for quarantine days or even weeks after they tested positive. The Shanghai-based Italian producer Alessandro Pavanello detailed his Covid experience on Instagram, where he wrote that he tested positive on March 26 but was not taken away for quarantine until April 9th. By that time, two entire weeks after his positive test, he already tested negative again but still needed to go to a centralized isolation site.

Liang Wannian called Shanghai’s fight against the virus an issue of systematic project management, where the problems within the process of screening, diagnosing and a rapid transfer and treatment need to be solved in order to stop continuous transmission of the virus: patients should not wait for beds, beds should be waiting for patients (“床等人”).

On Saturday, China’s largest-ever makeshift hospital opened its doors in Shanghai. The hospital at the National Exhibition Convention Center has a capacity of 50,000 beds for Covid-19 patients, and there are more than 5000 members of medical staff and 10,000 people doing logistics and supporting work (Xing & Cao 2022).

Meanwhile, more Chinese officials and experts are emphasizing the importance of sticking to the “dynamic zero-COVID strategy” as the best way forward for China. Zhang Wenhong (张文宏), head of the infectious disease department at Fudan’s Huashan Hospital, was also quoted by China Daily on Monday as saying that the pressing task for China now is to contain the epidemic in Shanghai and to cut off the transmission in communities so that normal life and production in the city can resume.

China Daily also reported that prominent Chinese pulmonologist Zhong Nanshan (钟南山) gave a lecture on Friday in which he suggested that co-existing with the virus and lifting the restrictions does not fit China’s situation since it would allegedly lead to many deaths: “In China, we should stick to the dynamic zero-COVID strategy and ease policies gradually in the future,” he said (Wang 2022, 3).

 
Shanghai’s mandatory quarantine implementation: lacking logic
 

On Weibo, thousands of people have commented on the “Why Can’t People Infected with Covid-19 Isolate at Home?” hashtag. Many agree with the centralized quarantine measures, as they fear that the virus would otherwise quickly spread in Shanghai’s densely populated areas and high-rise buildings through, for example, ventilation systems or shared facilities.

But there is also a lot of criticism. Although the Weibo post by Daily Economic News had received over 3300 replies on Monday, only a handful of comments were viewable at the time of writing. Another post containing the video received 222 replies, but none of them were displayed. “The comment section just shows ten comments, does it mean that the other 3000 people didn’t agree?”, one Weibo user wondered.

Another Weibo user described her experiences at an isolation site, posting photos of the conditions there. She writes:

“Up to now, I’ve always supported Shanghai’s active disease prevention. We have been isolated at home since early March. Ten tests we did all came up normal, but the last one unexpectedly came up positive. They took us to an isolation site. If the conditions had just been a bit better, we’d be okay with it, but this is just unimaginable. These are the facts. Over 800 people have entered this facility since April 9, their ages varying from seventy or eighty years old to babies just a few months old.

1. Inside the factory building, there are plank beds without mattresses, there are no people to clean.
2. There is no supervisor, we need to fight over our food.
3. There are not enough supplies, not even enough toiletpaper.
4. 80% of the toilets are clogged, there’s nobody to clean them.
5. There are no doctors and nobody to take care of patients with a fever.
6. There is no one to dispose of the garbage.
7. The weather’s hot, but there’s no place to shower or change clothes.

I really hope the relevant departments will pay attention to the fact that the dirty environment may cause other diseases and lead to more serious secondary hazards.”

“The conditions at home are definitely much better than at the makeshift hospitals,” one Weibo blogger wrote.

There are also posts commenting on how Shanghai’s mandatory quarantine strategy implementation is devoid of logic, making people isolate who have already recovered from Covid (like the aforementioned example of the Italian man). One netizen wrote about her friend who tested positive, recovered at home by herself, tested negative multiple times, and only received a call from the Center of Disease Control days later that she had to go to a quarantine location. She asked them to come to her house to do a test, so she could show them she had recovered, but the CDC refused due to “lack of staff” and still made her go to the facility for 14 days, stuck in between Covid positive people without enough medical staff and a lack of supplies. “This is Shanghai,” the blogger wrote.

Another Weibo user also published a lengthy post about their experiences getting to a Shanghai quarantine location. Like many others, this Weibo user also tested negative again and was still required to go to a centralized isolation site without getting any information on where he would be taken or how long he would be gone.

Together with many people who tested positive for Covid, he was inside a bus for hours without any access to water or toilets. When he finally reached the isolation site, he found that people who tested negative and positive were all mixed together – and that there was not a single doctor at the entire facility. Angry and frustrated, he wrote on Weibo:

“Before I put pen to paper, I hesitated if I should write down the facts of what is happening to us and if it would only bring more worry and stress to my friends and family, but after thinking twice I still think that all the people outside, no matter where you are, need to understand what we are going through and realize how different the reality is from the reports.”

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, 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:

References (online sources are linked to in text)

Wang, Xiaoyu. 2022. “Virus Highly Infectious, But Unlike Flu.” China Daily (Hong Kong), April 11, page 3.

Xing, Yi and Cao Yin. 2022. “Giant Makeshift Hospital to Ease Treatment Burden.” China Daily (Hong Kong), April 9, page 1.

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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China and Covid19

Anger over Guangzhou Anti-Epidemic Staff Picking Locks, Entering Homes

While these Guangzhou homeowners were quarantined at a hotel, anti-epidemic staff broke their door locks and entered their homes.

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WEIBO SHORT | Weibo Shorts are concise articles on topics that are trending. This article was first published

Dozens of homeowners in Guangzhou, Guangdong, were angered to find out the locks of their apartment doors were broken during their mandatory hotel quarantine.

The residents had gone to a quarantine location after a positive Covid case in their building. Afterward, anti-epidemic staff had entered their homes for disinfection and to check if any residents were still inside.

The incident happened earlier this month in an apartment complex in the Liwan district of the city.

The incident first gained attention on July 10 when various videos showing the broken door locks were posted online. During the morning, the property management had conducted an ’emergency inspection’ of 84 households. The doors were later sealed.

The case went trending again on July 18 when the residential district apologized to all homeowners for the break-ins and promised to compensate them.

“What’s the use of apologizing?” some Weibo commenters wondered. “Where is the law? If this even happens in Guangzhou now and people in Guangdong put up with this, what else will they dare to do in the future?”

On Chinese social media, most comments on the Guangzhou incident were about the break-ins allegedly being unlawful.

Media reporter and Toutiao author Kai Lei (@凯雷), who has over two million followers on Weibo, said the incident showed that those breaking in “had no regard for the law.”

To read more about Covid-19 in China, check our articles here.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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

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China and Covid19

Beijing Communities Asking People to Wear Electronic Monitoring Wristband during Home Quarantine

“It’s almost like wearing electronic handcuffs. I don’t want to wear this,” one tech blogger wrote after being asked to wear a monitoring wristband during home quarantine.

Manya Koetse

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Social media posts from Beijing residents claiming that they were asked to wear electronic monitoring wristbands during home quarantine have prompted angry reactions on Weibo.

“Last week, I went on a work trip to Guangzhou and before I returned to Beijing I did the nucleic acid tests in time. I also reported my home isolation to authorities and received the antigen tests. In the middle of the night, I then received a notification from my community that they are giving me an electric bracelet to wear,” one Beijing resident writes on Weibo on July 14: “If they need to monitor my health, I’ll cooperate with temperature checks and nucleic acid tests at the door, but I cannot accept this so-called 24-hour electronic monitoring.”

Similar stories by Beijing residents returning back to the city after traveling have popped up on Chinese social media over the past few days. Tech blogger Dahongmao (@大红矛) – who has over 170,000 followers on Weibo – also shared their wristband experience, writing:

After returning to Beijing from a business trip, I reported to the community on my own initiative, and also volunteered to take the tests and stay in home isolation. Seeing that I could go out, a lady from the community called me and said that there was a new policy again and that all people in home quarantine must wear an electronic bracelet, and that it would be delivered to me that night. She explained that it is used to check the body temperature and that they could conveniently monitor body temperature data on the phone. I said that I had already strictly followed Beijing’s requirements in accordance with the anti-epidemic work. If this bracelet can connect to the internet, it definitely is also able to record my movements and it’s almost like wearing electronic handcuffs. I don’t want to wear this. If you want to know my temperature, just come to the door and check me, that’s fine, I’m also still clocking in to do antigen testing everyday. She said it’s a requirement from higher-up and that I shouldn’t make it difficult for her, I said I would not want to make it difficult for her but that she could tell those above her that I won’t wear it. If you insist that I wear it, you’ll have to come up with the documents that prove that it’s a Beijing government requirement and that this is not some unlicensed company trying to make a profit.

As more stories started surfacing about Beijing compounds asking residents to wear electronic bracelets during their home isolation, various hashtags related to the issue made their rounds on Chinese social media and photos taken by people wearing the bracelets also were posted online.

Photos of the wristband’s packaging show the electronic wristband is manufactured by Beijing Microsense Technology (北京微芯感知科技有限公司), a local Beijing company established in April of 2020 that is located in the city’s Haidian District.

These stories raised concerns online, especially because the wristband had not been announced as a policy by the city’s official health authorities.

“Resist the craziness,” one Weibo user wrote: “Our personal freedom is covertly being limited, and there’s people making a profit behind it.” “This is becoming more and more like one big prison,” one Zhejiang-based blogger wrote.

Tech blogger Dahongmao later updated their Weibo story about the bracelets, saying the community staff had come back to retrieve the electronic bracelets on Thursday afternoon because they had received “too many complaints.” News of the wristbands being recalled after too many complaints also became a hashtag on Weibo (#大量投诉质疑后社区回收电子手环#).

Chinese state media commentator Hu Xijin (@胡锡进), who is Beijing-based, also responded to the controversy, emphasizing that the bracelets had already been retrieved by community workers and that Beijing city would not force people to wear electronic wristbands during home quarantine. “I wonder if this adjustment was made due to the pressure of public opinion,” Hu wrote: “But even if it was, let us encourage this kind of respect shown in the face of public discontent and opposition.” He also made a video about the incident for his Hu Says series.

Earlier on Thursday, Hu had called some of the posts about the electronic wristbands “unfounded rumors” because people returning to Beijing from low-risk regions inside of China do not even need to isolate at home at all.

According to the official guidelines, individuals arriving (back) in Beijing must have a green health code and a negative nucleic acid test obtained within 48 hours. Only those individuals coming in from overseas must complete a 7-day centralized quarantine plus 3-day home isolation. Secondary contacts of confirmed cases will also be asked to do 7 days of home quarantine.

“Don’t say it’s just rumors,” one Weibo user wrote: “I’m wearing one [a wristband] right now. I had to, because my roommate returned from a trip.”

Blogger Dahongmao responded to Hu’s post about the wristband, saying: “Hu, if you are really concerned about this, then help to ask the relevant departments about these three questions. 1) Why doesn’t this consumer electronic product have the nationally required 3C certificate? 2) How come this anti-epidemic product doesn’t have medical device certification? 3) Without these two certificates, how did this [company] enter the purchasing list of the government for the Winter Olympics?”

As reported by Jiemian News, the same company that allegedly produced these wristbands also manufactured a smart wearable temperature measurement device called a “temperature band-aid,” which was used in the Olympic Village during the Beijing Winter Olympics.

On the late afternoon of July 14, the Beijing Municipal Health Commission responded to the online concerns about the electronic wristband, reportedly saying that home isolation is only necessary for people returning to Beijing from inside of China if they are coming from high-risk areas, and that there is no official policy in place regarding the need to wear electronic bracelets.

To read more about Covid-19 in China, check our articles here.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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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