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Mystery fences spring up blocking Shanghai streets overnight amid ongoing lockdown

Mysterious fences have begun appearing overnight blocking city thoroughfares in Shanghai amid a grueling COVID-19 lockdown affecting some 26 million people, residents told RFA.

Photos from a number of different locations across the city were visible on social media on Thursday, showing wire netting fences with steel posts driven deep into the ground, blocking all traffic on the street.

“The posts supporting the wire fencing have all been driven into the ground,” Minhang district resident Feng Enhao told RFA. “It has been a unified move across the whole city, including Minhang, Putuo and Jiading districts, completed overnight.”

“The sections left unblocked are around party and government buildings,” Feng said. “It’s very strange, because even police vehicles can’t get through, and the military and police can’t move around.”

The move came as vice premier Sun Chunlan and Shanghai municipal government officials promised that the end of COVID-19 “dynamic clearance” restrictions in Shanghai is just around the corner, with cases in the city beginning to dip.

Wu Ganyu of the Shanghai municipal health commission told a news conference on Wednesday that community transmission of the virus had been “effectively curbed,” after newly confirmed cases fell for three days straight.

Road blockages have been reported in more than a dozen districts of Shanghai, including Changning, Huangpu and Xuhui.

One resident said there is no sign of COVID-19 measures being lifted any time soon, despite official promises.

Transferring negative tests

The move comes after large numbers of residents from Huangpu district were transported out of the city to Hangzhou on Wednesday, following a directive from the Pingwangjie neighborhood committee to residents of Nanjing East Road.

At the start of lockdown, anyone testing positive during mass, compulsory COVID-19 testing was sent to mass isolation facilities in the city. When those filled up, then were bused out to neighboring provinces, including Zhejiang.

More recently, however, those testing negative have been bused out of town, leaving those who tested positive to isolate in Shanghai, with some residential communities requisitioned as isolation facilities.

A Huangpu resident told RFA on Wednesday: “They are transferring the people test negative because too many people are testing positive in the community,” the resident said. “So they are turning it around and sending those who tested negative to Hangzhou today.”

“There are very few negatives in the community, so they only need two buses to transport them,” she said.

Those testing negative will remain in Hangzhou for seven days before being sent back home for a further seven days of quarantine, the Pingwangjie directive said.

Anger over restrictions

Public anger and despair over the restrictions continues to bubble over onto social media despite the best efforts of government-backed censors to delete such accounts.

In one video, a woman is shown about to jump from a building while onlookers try to dissuade her.

“Someone from the [temporary] cabin hospital is about to jump off the building,” the person shooting the video says. “Some people can’t bear being held in those conditions.”

“Fierce types like me make trouble, but those who don’t dare to do that and can’t bear it any longer do this instead.”

“They fooled people into coming [to the temporary facility] and then gave them nothing,” the person says. “There are no sanitary towels for the women and no toilet paper for the men.”

Another video clip showed a woman in a residential community berating a police officer over supplies that were ordered but hadn’t arrived.

“Our pandemic supplies are being left to rot in the civic center, and nobody is distributing them,” the woman asks loudly. “What happened to our pandemic supplies?”

In another, a man shoots video from inside a compulsory isolation center where people are shown crammed in to a large hall on camp beds, with no measures taken to avoid infection.

“First day in the isolation center, and I’ve got a cough. I didn’t have a cough before I went into isolation, but I have one now,” the man says. “Look at this — so many people isolating together. No measures to limit transmission, no masks … no members of staff come here. What’s the point of isolating if it’s like this?”

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.