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Shanghai prohibits media from using the term ‘lockdown’

Unlike Wuhan, Shanghai never declared lockdown, so there is no ‘ending’ it, claims directive

Namita Singh
Thursday 02 June 2022 13:36 BST
China grapples with worst Covid outbreak in two years

Shanghai authorities have reportedly directed the media to refrain from using the term “lockdown” while reporting on the strict Covid-19 protocols in the city.

The directive came as authorities allowed many of the city’s 25 million residents to step outside their homes, to travel for work and use public transport, after two months.

“Do not use the phrase ‘ending the lockdown’,” said the leaked censorship document, according to China Digital Times, a US-based organisation that tries to bring light to China stories that would otherwise be suppressed by the country’s state media. “Unlike Wuhan, Shanghai never declared a lockdown, so there is no ‘ending the lockdown’,” it added.

“All parts of Shanghai underwent static management-style suppression and suspensions, but the city’s core functions kept operating throughout this period. Emphasise that related measures were temporary, conditional, and limited.”

It is unclear which arm of the government issued the directive as the outlet omitted the name of the body that issued these instructions to protect its source.

Shanghai sprung back to life after two months of isolation on Wednesday, with authorities welcoming residents out of the lockdown with a “thank you” letter.

During the lockdown, many residents lost their incomes, struggled to find enough food and faced mental health struggles due to prolonged isolation. Residents in several areas protested against the strict restrictions, a rare sight in authoritarian China.

In April, videos from the peak of the Covid outbreak showed many residents crying and screaming from their balconies after millions were asked to stay put and not leave the premises for any reason. The guidelines also required residents to not open their windows.

But on Wednesday morning, many people were seen out jogging, walking their dogs in the park or sitting in the lawns of Shanghai, embracing the removal of guidelines curbing social interaction.

Residents wearing masks visit Yu Garden Mall on 2 June (AP)

“Under the strong leadership of the Communist Party’s Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core, after more than two months of continuous fighting, the arduous battle to defend Shanghai has achieved a major milestone,” the authorities’ letter said.

“This is a moment everyone has been waiting for... we would like to thank all Shanghai citizens in particular for their support and dedication!”

Though the two-month-long Covid-19 lockdown is over, the relief extended to locals is quickly being replaced by growing frustration as residents are forced to wait for hours to obtain the negative Covid test results needed to enter a public space.

They must have taken a virus test within the previous 72 hours to enter malls, offices or even use subways and buses.

The authorities have built up to 15,000 testing sites and trained thousands of workers to swab throats. But these sites remained insufficient to tackle the long queues.

Residents shared pictures of booths and warned that the waiting time at some were as long as 4.5 hours.

“I left the lockdown nightmare only to enter the 72-hour PCR testing nightmare,” said one Shanghai resident, declining to provide her name.

“It is troublesome, but we have no choice,” said another, named Xu Xiaojun. “This is for everyone’s good.”

Other cities, including Beijing and Shenzhen, had also imposed similar requirements under China’s zero-Covid policy.

Despite the deep discontent sparked by stringent curbs, China has vowed to stick with its approach, claiming that it is needed to save lives and prevent its healthcare system from being swamped.

Additional reporting by agencies

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