Anger mounts among locked-down Shanghai residents as city reports more COVID deaths

SHANGHAI, April 23 (Reuters) – China’s main financial hub in Shanghai reported more new deaths linked to COVID-19 on April 22, as residents expressed anger at the harsh lockdown and strict internet censorship.

The full lockdown of Shanghai began at the beginning of April, although many people have been confined to their homes for longer, and tension is beginning to tell residents.

The city, which is battling the largest outbreak of the coronavirus in China so far, reported 12 new COVID-19 deaths on Friday, up from 11 the day before.

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The Shanghai government said the average age of the deceased patients was 88. All had underlying health conditions, and none had been vaccinated.

On social media, netizens battled against censors overnight to share a six-minute video called “The Voice of April,” a montage of sounds recorded over the course of the outbreak in Shanghai.

Walking through Shanghai’s silent skyscrapers, the video consists of residents complaining about the lack of food and medicine, as well as the harsh tactics of the city authorities.

All direct references to the film have been removed from micro-blogging service Weibo by Saturday morning, although some comments critical of censorship remain.

One of them said, “I can only say that if you don’t want to even hear a small amount of real voices, it’s really hopeless.”

Many were reminded of the outrage that erupted on social media two years ago after the death of Li Wenliang, a doctor who was reprimanded by police for spreading “false” information about a new SARS-like infectious disease in Wuhan in late 2019.

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“Dr. Lee, nothing has changed after two years,” another Weibo user said. “We still can’t open our mouths, and we still can’t speak.”

Despite anger and frustration among residents in closed apartment complexes in Shanghai, local officials stress that there will be no lull until all new cases are removed outside the quarantine areas.

“The more critical the period becomes, the more we need to grit our teeth and focus our strength,” Shanghai Mayor Gong Zheng was quoted as saying on the official Shanghai government channel WeChat late Friday.

The number of cases outside quarantine areas was 218 on Friday, down from 250 the day before.

And 20,634 new asymptomatic local infections were recorded in the city, recovering from 15,698 on Thursday. Official data showed that the total number of new symptoms reached 2,736, up from 1,931 on April 21.

“One strategy that needs immediate implementation is to increase the booster vaccination dose rates for the elderly and other vulnerable groups and see if mRNA vaccines can be used,” said Jaya Dantas, a public health expert at the Curtin School of Population Health in Curtin. Australia, which is monitoring the Shanghai outbreak.

China has yet to provide its own mRNA vaccines, and has opted not to import developed ones abroad.

In a study published by China’s Center for Disease Prevention and Control on Friday, medical experts in the northeastern city of Jilin, the site of another recent outbreak, said Chinese vaccines have been effective so far, even though new emerging variants of COVID-19 are unpredictable. .

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“The data are strong enough to indicate the overall importance of a full and booster vaccination strategy, particularly for the elderly,” they said.

Liang Wanyan, head of an expert advisory body on COVID-19 with the National Health Commission, told state TV late Friday that China’s current “dynamic” virus-free policies have given the country “time to prepare,” allowing it to strengthen vaccination levels. .

Tang Jiafu, a city official, acknowledged Saturday that the unrest is putting environmental health in Shanghai under pressure, with less than half of sanitation workers currently working, affecting garbage collection rates.

Even after closing for more than 30 days, some pools are still reporting new cases, casting doubt on the effectiveness of China’s approach.

“This is a long time coming and it has mental health implications: People are stressed and frustrated,” Dantas said.

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(Reporting by David Stanway and Wang Jing) Editing by Sam Holmes and Shree Navaratnam

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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