From a student in Shandong expelled for protesting lockdown to a pet quarantine center in Shenzhen: Here’s how Covid-19 has affected other parts of China
As it enters its fourth week, Shanghai’s bungled lockdown continues to hold the limelight.
Articles about pet culls, food shortages, and a dangerous depletion of emergency medical resources, as well as memes and videos of epidemic prevention workers dancing have been circulating on social media. Western media too, has focused its attention on Shanghai, speculating what a lockdown of the port city means for global trade. But all the attention on one of China’s biggest cities has meant that other significant Covid-19 events on the Chinese mainland have gone underreported. TWOC takes a look at some of the more major ones:
Tightening epidemic prevention policies
Cities across China have been implementing stricter policies to combat the highly contagious Covid-19 omicron variant. On April 7, Gavekal Dragonomics, a financial research group, has noted that of China’s 100 most economically productive cities, 87 of them have imposed some form of restriction on movement.
The city of Taiyuan, Shanxi province, entered its own lockdown on April 13. Municipal authorities in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, imposed self-isolation and quarantine regulations on Monday for anyone entering the city. The Global Times reported on April 11 that citizens of Wuhan, Hubei province, now require a negative nucleic acid test within 48 hours if they want to use public transport.
Testing has been vigorous during this latest wave. One district in the city of Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi province, issued a document on April 13 ordering a range of testing for service sector and logistics workers, from one nucleic acid test per day to one every three days, while encouraging ordinary citizens to be tested once a week.
Some restrictions have evolved quickly. After finding 12 cases, the city of Xuzhou, Jiangsu province, ordered a full lockdown on March 30, but began lifting it by area after 12 days, as infection rates appeared to be low and confined to certain neighborhoods. However, residents of the town of Dongxing in Guangxi, on the Vietnam border, complained on Weibo earlier this week that they have been confined in their homes in lockdown for 50 days, since February 23.
The city Langfang in Hebei province, which contains numerous bedroom communities of Beijing, was released from 35 days of lockdown on April 12, with many residents confined to their homes and public transportation into Beijing shut down. This has disrupted the commute of many workers who perform essential jobs in Beijing, leading netizens to grumble they were being “sacrificed” to keep infection rates low in the capital.
Lockdown in Jilin
The province in China’s northeast has been badly hit by Covid-19, leading to a ban on movement to and from the province on March 14. Across the province, people have been asked to remain in their homes and avoid public gatherings. The Changchun Municipal Government apologized on March 29 for a shortage of fresh vegetables in the city, owing to the closure of two major vegetable markets, and promised 1,000 tons of vegetable bags would be delivered into the city every day.
The province is also a significant agricultural producer, holding 10 percent of the country’s corn fields, according to the South China Morning Post. The Hong Kong-based paper reported fields lying fallow as the spring plowing season arrives, farmers told to remain indoors, and stores lacking seeds and fertilizer. On April 4, Jilin’s provincial government said they saw the plowing season as equally important as epidemic control, and allowed farmers stuck in major cities like Changchun and Jilin to return to their hometowns to prepare for the event.
Changchun, the provincial capital, has been in an ongoing lockdown since March 11 (although the Global Times reported on Thursday that the city had cleared all remaining cases, allowing for reopening), which saw not only people ordered to stay at home, but roadblocks that prevented movement from one area to another. On the night of March 27, Douyin account Mijia posted a video of two police cars allegedly blocking a road in Changchun and all the traffic lights turned to red. In a document issued on April 11, the State Council, officially China’s chief governing body, forbid local governments from blocking ordinary roads without authorization from provincial-level disease-control centers.
The strictness of Changchun’s prevention policies has led to tragedy. Caixin Global reported that on March 11, a 4-year-old girl suffering from acute laryngitis died in Changchun because the hospital refused to treat her until a negative nucleic acid test was imposed. Jilin province reported two deaths due to Covid-19 on March 18—to date the only official deaths from the virus listed since January 2021—both elderly patients with pre-existing health conditions.
Student expelled in Shandong for questioning campus measures
On March 31, a graduate student from Ludong University, Shandong province, was expelled for protesting against the university’s epidemic prevention measures. According to an article on WeChat account Zhongshi Shuofa (since taken down), Sun had written an open letter to the administrators of the university in December that questioned the strictness of the university’s lockdowns over the past three semesters, which included prohibiting students from leaving campus (a common precaution against Covid-19 among Chinese universities), and requiring them to report their body temperature every morning and evening.
In his letter, Sun questioned the necessity of the measures—noting that many students were climbing over the campus fence to go out—when there was no epidemic in the city of Yantai, and teachers were still allowed to enter and exit campus at will. In the ensuing months, Sun published numerous similar criticisms on his WeChat public account. On March 27, he was taken away by police for “causing a disturbance” after walking through campus with a placard urging the university to reopen the campus, and was expelled four days later. In a letter explaining the expulsion, the university said Sun’s actions had “affected the reputation of the school.” Sun has since stated he would appeal his expulsion.
Shenzhen sets up China’s first pet quarantine center
Shenzhen’s municipal government has set up a pet center, a safe place for animals to be looked after while their owners are in quarantine. This comes after multiple cases of pets being left home alone by owners ordered into quarantine facilities after testing positive, or being killed by epidemic prevention workers fearing the animals could infect humans with Covid-19 (despite the World Health Organization finding no evidence). Such stories have made headlines repeatedly over the past two years, causing anger and dismay each time among China’s pet-loving netizens. The center began a trial run on April 7, the first such centralized quarantine facility in the country, with capacity for 300 animals, monitoring and caring for pets sent from all over the city while separated from their owners.