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“It was not clear what prompted authorities to resort to fencing,” said Reuters, reporting on China’s latest “zero COVID” innovation.

This reeks of something local officials felt obliged to do not because they expect it to limit transmission but because they’re desperate to show their bosses in Beijing how committed they are to the policy. Xi Jinping has staked his and the country’s prestige on controlling the virus to prove that Chinese totalitarianism delivers better results than western liberalism. The commissars in Shanghai may be grasping for a way to signal their loyalty. Result: Fences around buildings where at least one resident has tested positive.

“This is so disrespectful of the rights of the people inside, using metal barriers to enclose them like domestic animals,” one Chinese social media about the new measure, per Reuters. Another wondered if it isn’t a fire hazard. Oh well.

It’s not going over well. This tweet translates to “Angry Shanghai residents tore down the hard-to-separate barbed wire.”

If it’s any consolation to them, some have it worse:

To live in Shanghai right now is to risk being told at any moment that you have to evacuate your home. If you test positive, it’s off to a dingy quarantine facility; if you don’t test positive, the fact that a neighbor has means you could be uprooted and shipped out of the city as collateral damage.

Videos circulated widely on Chinese social media this week showing busloads of people being taken to quarantine, at times outside Shanghai. In one account told to the Guardian, thousands of non-Covid-positive residents in the upmarket Xuhui district were told to relocate out of Shanghai so their area could be disinfected. The move confused and angered residents…

Resident Zhang Chen, 30, told Reuters her four-year-old son and his 84-year-old grandmother were taken to quarantine on Sunday, along with her inlaws, and she was worried poor conditions in the facility might affect their health.

She said meals lacked nutrition (breakfast is two slices of toast), the building was dusty and only partly renovated, there were no showers and too few toilets. “They are patients, not criminals. But here it’s like they’re criminals, and being sent off to suffer,” Zhang said.

Weeks after the lockdown began, there’s no end in sight. City officials actually tightened restrictions on movement in the past few days, which may explain the new fencing. Deaths keep climbing even so, tripling in the past week. The official number yesterday was 39, which is remarkably low for a city of 26 million in the grip of an Omicron outbreak. But there’s a reason for that: China only counts COVID as a cause of death if the victim had no underlying health conditions. It doesn’t matter if the virus exacerbated those conditions, turning them from manageable to fatal. In China, you’re presumed to have died “with” COVID rather than “of” COVID unless there’s strong evidence to the contrary.

Just 15 percent of Shanghai residents over the age of 80 are vaccinated. Only 62 percent of those over 60 are. In light of the way China counts COVID deaths, imagine how many elderly people there might be dying every day yet remain conveniently unaccounted for in official statistics.

The way Shanghai officials are counting cases is more dubious still. Reportedly people who test positive are deemed “asymptomatic” so long as they don’t show evidence of pneumonia in lung scans. Coughing, fever, aches, chills — all the standard symptoms of COVID with which you and I are familiar don’t qualify as “symptoms” in Shanghai. “This way of classifying asymptomatic cases conflicts with China’s past national guidelines,” says the AP, accusing apparatchiks there of cooking the books.

How many people are truly symptomatic is anyone’s guess. But a safe bet is “a lot”:

The grim punchline to China trying to move mountains in Shanghai in the name of “zero COVID” is that … there’s now an outbreak in Beijing too. Just 22 cases were recorded today but residents of the capital are understandably terrified, knowing that a Shanghai-style lockdown awaits if the city can’t stamp out transmission quickly. Locals are thinking ahead:

The announcement of mass testing in Yoon’s district set off “panic buying” in supermarkets across the area, says the AP. Shanghai’s starvation problem may soon be Beijing’s starvation problem. Meanwhile, nationally, retail sales and industrial production are down and unemployment is up as “zero COVID” grinds the country’s economic engine to a halt. No end in sight.

Source: This post first appeared on HotAir

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