Shanghai: a megalopolis in confinement

If at the beginning of 2020 the decision to impose confinement on Wuhan, a city of 11 million inhabitants, had left the world speechless, now try to imagine the closure by covid of a megalopolis two and a half times more populated. Shanghai, the financial center of China and the world, inhabited by 26 million people, has been in total confinement since April 5 due to the resurgence of infections due to the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2. Initially, it was decided to shut down the eastern and western parts of the city separately, but the spread of cases eventually led to a more drastic measure.

The sinking of the “zero covid” model. On Wednesday April 6, Shanghai recorded around 20,000 new covid cases, few compared to those reported daily in Europe and the United States in less acute phases of the pandemic, but a real record for China which has since opted for the onset of the health emergency. the “zero covid” strategy, aimed at breaking all chains of transmission with mass screenings, quarantines in special structures, very strict confinements and border controls. With the dissemination of highly transmissible but probably less lethal variants, such as Omicron BA.1 and the two BA.1.1 and BA.2 sublines, this approach is proving inefficient and very complex to manage.

Essential goods. Locking 26 million people in the house and feeding and serving them at the same time is virtually impossible even for the Chinese system, which still manages to periodically test Shanghai’s entire population through 20,000 swab centers spread across the city. Citizens unable to go out except for covid screening are struggling to collect food, water and medicine and even place orders online, due to lack of supplies and delivery people.

Tens of thousands of doctors and nurses, along with 2,000 troops have been sent to the city to deal with the emergency, although official data shows no covid deaths out of more than 90,000 covid cases in Shanghai (but the absence of deaths is hard to believe, despite the protective effect of vaccines).

Separate. Health policies in China require all positive patients, including children, to be quarantined in isolated facilities, which are however overcrowded and with inadequate health services. According to the Chinese press agency Caixin to the BBC’s trust, even people who have been in close contact with positive patients (potentially hundreds of thousands of people) will instead have to spend a period of isolation in neighboring provinces. Protests from exasperated citizens and difficult logistics could convince authorities to allow home quarantine for the asymptomatic, or so it is hoped.

Vaccination campaign. Although 88% of the Chinese population is fully immunized, inactivated virus vaccines produced by China are less effective than mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. In addition, only half of those over 80 are protected by vaccines, because priority in the vaccination campaign has been given to the working classes.

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