Shanghai turns residences into COVID isolation facilities, sparking protests


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SHANGHAI — Shanghai is converting residential buildings into quarantine centers to house a growing number of COVID-19 cases, but the move is drawing anger and protests from neighbors worried about being at increased risk of infection.

In an incident broadcast live Thursday afternoon on Chinese messaging platform WeChat, around 30 people wearing hazmat suits with the word “police” on their backs could be seen brawling with other people outside a housing complex, carrying at least one person.

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A woman could be heard crying as she filmed the scene, which was watched by more than 10,000 people before it was abruptly cut off, with live-streaming platform WeChat announcing that it contained “content dangerous”.

“It’s not that I don’t want to cooperate with the country, but how would you feel if you lived in a building where the blocks are only 10 meters (30 feet) apart, everyone has tested negative, and these people are allowed in? said the woman filming and did not reveal her real name.

The video could not be independently verified, but the dispute was confirmed by building management on Friday.

Zhangjiang Group, which owns the complex, said authorities had converted five of its vacant buildings into isolation facilities and it had been told nine more buildings would be converted.

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He said he had moved 39 tenants to rooms in other parts of the complex and offered them compensation.

“On the afternoon of April 14, when our company organized the construction of the isolation fence, some tenants blocked the construction site,” the group said in a statement, adding that the situation was now resolved.

The Shanghai government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its current quarantine policy.

A resident of the complex, who is close to housing companies at the Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park complex, including GlaxoSmithKline and Hewlett-Packard, confirmed he was informed on Tuesday that the residents had been asked to move.

Workers showed up Thursday afternoon and police arrived soon after, said the resident who witnessed the scene. She declined to be named as the situation was sensitive.

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“This place is totally unsuitable to become a quarantine center,” she said, fearing she could catch the virus living so close to patients.

Under China’s zero-COVID policy, anyone who tests positive must quarantine at designated sites and neighbors are told to self-isolate at home for 14 days, fueling public fear about the consequences of catching the virus.

Shanghai has become the epicenter of China’s biggest outbreak since the virus was first identified in Wuhan in late 2019, recording more than 300,000 COVID infections since March.

The city has started converting schools, recently completed apartment buildings and showrooms into quarantine centers, and announced last week that it had installed more than 160,000 beds in more than 100 hospitals in fortune.

According to the regulations, Chinese authorities are allowed to take possession of buildings and other properties in order to deal with emergency situations.

Cities across the country have also occupied facilities to house quarantined residents, sparking complaints from people forced to relocate, according to social media reports. (Reporting by Brenda Goh, Andrew Galbraith, David Stanway and the Shanghai Newsroom; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)



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