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Shanghai (AFP) – In the middle of the night, Lucy, a Shanghai resident, said she and her neighbors were forced onto buses and taken hundreds of miles from the locked-down Chinese metropolis to a makeshift quarantine centre.
Most of Shanghai’s 25 million people have been confined to their homes for weeks as the city battles a major Covid outbreak. Hundreds of thousands of HIV-positive people have been taken to makeshift facilities because China does not allow them to quarantine at home.
But some residents who tested negative told AFP they had also been driven from their homes and taken to camps outside the city, a few hundred kilometers away.
“The police told us that there were too many positive cases in our compound and that if we continued to live here we would all be infected,” Lucy told AFP, using only her first name for reasons. confidentiality.
“We had no choice.”
She said the HIV-negative group had been sent to a quarantine site containing hundreds of prefabricated one-room cabins in neighboring Anhui province, 400 kilometers away, and it was initially unclear where they were going.
Lucy added that she does not know when she will be able to return home.
AFP spoke to other Shanghai residents who said healthy, HIV-negative people in some housing compounds were being sent to other provinces for quarantine.
One said his neighbors protested and refused to join.
Another resident of the city’s Jing’an district told AFP she was taken, along with dozens of people from her residential compound, to a one-room quarantine center in Anhui late at night.
“We have all received calls from the neighborhood committee saying that since there are too many positives in our enclosure, the negatives must be transferred to hotels for isolation,” this resident told AFP, preferring to remain anonymous.
She said they “felt terrified” seeing the temporary accommodation and had “lost faith in the Shanghai government”.
On Monday, Shanghai was under a patchwork of different restrictions, with new virus cases falling to around 7,000, with 32 dead.
City authorities have imposed a three-tier system of ‘freedoms’, although strict local enforcement still appears to restrict the majority of residents within compounds or wards.
China’s relentless pursuit of a zero Covid policy has left many Shanghai residents chafing under tight curbs.
The Shanghai government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, officials in the economic hub are likely under more pressure than elsewhere to achieve “zero-Covid at the community level” – meaning no transmission outside of centers of quarantine. .
“When faced with strong pressure from above to achieve zero Covid goals, these excessive and burdensome measures become more likely.”
“Moving negative people could be seen as a preventive strategy, in the hope that more positive cases could be found if they stay there,” Huang added.
Chinese officials are regularly sacked after virus outbreaks for perceived failures in controlling Covid.
Tens of thousands of close contacts of virus cases have been quarantined in neighboring provinces, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
But there has been no mention in the official media of the relocation of the negative cases.
Shanghai authorities have faced widespread criticism after initially announcing four-day phased lockdowns in different parts of the city that had not yet been lifted.
Tall metal barriers have been erected around some locked compounds in recent days, in measures described as a “hard lockdown”.
© 2022 AFP