At the end of March people in Shanghai were told to prepare for a lockdown of five days. The city was to be divided into two halves, each half would lock down, one after the other.
Two months later the entire city is only just emerging from, what for many, has been a longer lockdown than the 76 days Wuhan endured in 2020.
It has been a disaster for the government.
We’ve seen people screaming from their windows that they have no food, banging pots and pans, as the authorities scrambled with the logistics of feeding the 26 million population they’d just shuttered in their homes.
There have been mothers with sick babies pleading for help, and relatives who’ve been forced to watch their loved ones die as they waited for the necessary permission, and a Covid test result, to be taken to hospital.
And I don’t believe we will ever learn how many people have taken their own lives.
The response of the president has been to double down on the ‘Zero Covid’ policy, hailing its success compared to the dangerous “living with Covid” policies in the West. He has also made clear there will be consequences for anyone who dares to speak out against it.
In fact, it is a ruthless policy that millions are deployed to enforce, often with brutal tactics.
Some dabai (大白) or big whites as they are nicknamed (the volunteers enforcing the lockdown, and helping people with tasks) have even admitted to not understanding their orders, when they’ve been told to go and take someone with no symptoms, including elderly people, from their homes and force them into a mass quarantine centre.
They can see it makes no sense, but they risk losing their job if they fail to carry out their orders. Many of them are migrant workers, who have left their own families behind, to travel around the country and make money as part of a hazmat army.
Now the lockdown has ended as abruptly as it started, and there were scenes of celebration on the famous Shanghai Bund as the clock struck midnight and “freedom day” dawned.
The unprecedented protests and online criticism we’ve seen are unlikely to manifest into anything more now that people have their freedom back.
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