‘Like a prison’: Shanghai, Beijing accelerates COVID thresholds

  • Shanghai tells some to stay at home and not receive deliveries
  • Part of push to eradicate infections by the end of May -sources
  • Chinese capital Beijing imposes the strictest curbs so far
  • Lawyers question the legality of harsh measures as anger grows
  • Chinese export growth weakest in two years

SHANGHAI/BEIJING, May 9 (Reuters) – China’s two largest cities tightened COVID-19 restrictions on Monday, raising public fears and even questions about the legality of the uncompromising battle with the virus that is killing the second-largest economy. ravaged the world, fueled it.

In Shanghai, which is entering its sixth week of lockdown, authorities have launched another effort to end infections outside the quarantine zones, according to people familiar with the matter. read more

While no official announcement has been made, residents in at least four of Shanghai’s 16 districts received notice over the weekend saying they would not be allowed to leave their homes or receive supplies, sparking a struggle to stock up on food.

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Some of these people had previously been allowed to move into their housing complexes.

“Go home, go home!” a woman shouted through a megaphone at residents mingling beneath an apartment building hit by the new restrictions on Sunday, a scene that could stun the rest of the world that has chosen to open up and live with the virus .

“It was like a prison,” said Coco Wang, a Shanghai resident living under the new restrictions. “We are not afraid of the virus. We are afraid of this policy.”

Meanwhile, an area in the southwest of the capital on Monday, during the strictest restrictions imposed in Beijing so far, banned them from leaving their neighborhoods and ordered a halt to all activities unrelated to virus prevention.

In other hard-hit districts of Beijing, residents have been told to work from home, some restaurants and public transportation have been closed and additional roads, areas and parks have been closed on Monday.

The restrictions have taken a heavy toll on the Chinese economy.

China’s export growth slowed to its weakest in nearly two years, data showed on Monday, as the central bank pledged to ramp up support for the slowing economy. Read more . read more

In a strong sign of business tensions, the Chinese auto association estimated that sales fell as much as 48% year-on-year last month as COVID restrictions closed factories and held back domestic demand.

The curbs have also sparked rare displays of public anger, further fueled by recent online accounts of authorities in Shanghai forcing neighbors of COVID-positive cases into centralized quarantine and demanding that they hand over the keys to their homes to be disinfected.

A video shows police breaking a lock after a resident refused to open a door.

In another video, a voice recording of an internet call circulated by a woman arguing with officials who demanded to spray disinfectant into her home even though she had tested negative. Reuters was unable to independently verify the videos.

Professor Tong Zhiwei, who teaches law at the East China University of Political Science and Law, wrote Sunday in an essay widely circulated on social media that such acts were illegal and needed to stop.

“Shanghai should set a good example for the entire country on how to conduct COVID prevention work in a scientific and legitimate manner,” Tong wrote.

Liu Dali, a lawyer for one of China’s largest law firms, wrote a similar letter to authorities.

Copies of both letters have been censored from the Chinese internet, although users have reposted screenshots. Messages from Tong’s social media account on the Weibo site were blocked late Sunday.

Liu and Tong did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

China is adamant that it will stick to its zero-COVID policy to fight a disease that first emerged in the city of Wuhan in late 2019.

Authorities have warned against criticism of a policy they believe is saving lives.

They point to much higher death tolls in other countries that have eased restrictions or lifted them altogether, in an effort to “live with COVID” even as the infections spread.

“We must insist on regulating the flow and control of the movement of people,” the Shanghai municipal government said in response to questions from Reuters about the latest restrictions.

A “one-size-fits-all” approach should be avoided and each district was allowed to tighten measures according to its own situation, it said.

On Monday, Shanghai reported a decline in new cases for the 10th day in a row.

Beijing hopes to avoid the weeks-long lockdowns that Shanghai has endured, but the growing number of residential buildings under lockdown orders is making residents nervous.

“I just rented an apartment in this compound and I have not received any message,” a 28-year-old resident of the Changping district of northern Beijing, nicknamed Wang, said after being barred from her compound on Monday.

“I’m already working from home, but I’m afraid I’ll run out of daily supplies.”

Residents were notified later on Monday morning that positive cases had been detected in the area.

A nanny who lived in the same compound said the lockdown meant she couldn’t get a new job.

“Today is my first day at work and now I can’t go out,” said the 40-year-old, who called her Meizi.

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Reporting by Brenda Goh, Zhang Yan, Winni Zhou, David Stanway, Martin Quin Pollard and the Beijing editors; Written by Ryan Woo and John Geddie; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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