Shanghai Locks Back Down...AGAIN
Zero COVID Means Lockdown Forever
Shanghai is going back into lockdown, but don’t worry, it’s only “temporary”. Of course, the city was only going to lock down a few of its districts at first, then decided to go all in, so once again the only thing that’s temporary is the government’s commitment to a particular plan and protocol for achieving “Zero COVID”.
The plan emerged from one area with a handful of cases and spread in hours to 14 of the financial hub’s 16 districts. It encompasses almost all of the city’s 25 million residents as health officials use testing to root out any silent transmission of the virus, a key tool in China’s Covid Zero arsenal.
Zero COVID Means Zero Tolerance…And Zero Common Sense
The cause for locking down an entire city of 25 million people? 11 new cases.
There were 5 additional infections found among people in quarantine on Thursday, for a total of 11 cases in the financial hub, health officials said. Nationwide, China added 73 infections.
25 million lives are upended yet again because 11 of them tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. 25 million people forced to make yet another run on grocery stores to stock up against the possibility of another lengthy stay under house arrest.
Businesses that were just starting to reopen and resume operations will get to start the process all over again…”soon.” Neighborhoods where no virus is found may be allowed to reopen quickly, but areas where even one case is found will be locked down for another two weeks.
The latest moves hit home quickly for residents. It led some to flee their apartment complexes and sparked a run on grocery stores after many struggled to get fresh fruits and vegetables in the early days of the original lockdown. While the latest curbs may lift in as little as a few hours if no new infections are found, two more weeks of isolation may be imposed for areas where new chains of transmission are uncovered.
The lockdown protocol is has turned into a nationwide game of COVID “Whack-A-Mole”, where locking down one neighborhood leads to cases cropping up elsewhere. Far from ending the outbreak, Zero COVID means there is Zero Chance of the outbreak ever ending, as every new case restarts the lockdown counters.
Zero COVID once again demonstrates that it employs Zero Common Sense.
“Run And Hide” Is Becoming A Typical Response
One foreign worker who was preparing to return home from China when the lockdowns began detailed in a series of tweets the reactions of citizens to the new lockdown announcements.
At the first hint of lockdowns, the reaction of many is a rather understandable “run and hide”, with many people fleeing their homes for hotels—presumably outside the lockdown areas.
Zero COVID has left Shanghai with was seems an endless state of fear and anxiety, with citizens forever waiting for the next lockdown notice.
The Last Lockdown Had Only Just Ended
Nor do citizens need to wait long for the lockdown notice to arrive. It was only on May 31 that Shanghai ended the previous lockdown and began allowing people the freedom to move about outside their homes.
On Monday evening, some of the people allowed out of their compounds for brief walks took advantage of suspended traffic to congregate for a beer and ice cream on deserted streets, but there was a sense of wariness and anxiety among residents.
"I feel a little nervous," said Joseph Mak, who works in education. "It's hard to believe it's actually happening."
Even government spokespeople at that time were emphasizing the need to emerge from lockdown and at least try to get things back to normal.
"This is a day that we dreamed of for a very long time," Shanghai government spokeswoman Yin Xin told reporters.
Yin said daily online news conferences will be discontinued as her colleagues, who have lived on site for the past two months as required by COVID rules, will return home after midnight.
"Everyone has sacrificed a lot. This day has been hard-won, and we need to cherish and protect it, and welcome back the Shanghai we are familiar with and missed."
The day may have been hard-won, but, not even two weeks later, that day has ended yet again. People are being told to sacrifice more.
Zero COVID means Zero Growth For The Economy
The new lockdowns are almost certain to bring to a halt any efforts at restarting economic growth in China. May PMI shows the economy is still contracting due to the last round of lockdowns.
When the June figures arrive, it will be surprising if they do not show another sharp drop as in April, when Shanghai as well as other cities were under near-total lockdown.
Due to the last lockdown, industrial production in China literally collapsed during April.
Fresh lockdowns will only make recovery that much more difficult and prolonged.
Zero COVID Has Had Zero Success
The cruel irony is that the lockdowns have utterly failed to eradicate the virus. Even as Shanghai was ending the last lockdown, cases were still cropping up and the disease was still circulating.
The peak of the last outbreak two months ago occurred well after the lockdowns began, proving yet again that lockdowns do not inhibit community spread of the virus (nor, indeed of any other infectious respiratory disease).
Zero COVID has never had anything but Zero Success.
Testing Has Not Helped
Nor has China’s commitment to mass testing allowed it to avoid these draconian lockdowns. Despite setting up testing facilities across the country, disease containment and finally achieving “Zero COVID” remains ever out of reach.
A network of tens of thousands of lab testing booths are being set up across the country’s largest and most economically vital cities, with the goal of having residents always just a 15 minute walk away from a swabbing point. The infrastructure will allow cities like Beijing, Shanghai, tech hub Shenzhen and e-commerce heartland Hangzhou to require tests as often as every 48 hours, with negative results needed to get on the subway or even enter a store.
Mass testing is still a mass failure at disease mitigation.
It Has Always Been This Way
The great tragedy in all of this is that China’s Zero COVID protocols have never worked. That they were a demonstrable failure in Wuhan in 2020 was all too visible even then.
The lockdowns failed then, they failed two months ago, and there is no reason to presume they will not fail now.
Mass testing is likewise an abject failure. Nowhere has it ever allowed communities to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Testing failed in 2020, and there is no reason to presume testing will not fail China now.
The cautionary here, for Shanghai, for China, and for the world, is that draconian diktat and knee-jerk authoritarian government response are ineffective against infectious respiratory disease. Viruses do not respect governments. Viruses do not obey laws.
Viruses spread when and where and however they will. Governments do not get to have a say in the matter.
The lesson of Shanghai remains the same: Virus gonna virus. People and governments need to come to grips with that and figure out how to live normal lives anyway.