Coronavirus shame pits neighbor against neighbor in closed Shanghai

SHANGHAI, April 18 (Reuters) – Lockdown tensions have exposed divisions among Shanghai residents, pitting young people against the elderly, locals against outsiders and, above all, COVID negativity against people with COVID.

Shanghai’s 25 million residents, most of whom live in apartment complexes, have forged new community connections during the city’s coronavirus outbreak, through bartering, group buying and setting up food-sharing stations.

But with no end in sight to the four-week shutdown for some, frustrations are also growing behind the closed gates of the city’s tower blocks, which are often displayed within WeChat message groups.

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In one, conflict erupted when a woman taken to central quarantine – where she tested negative – accused her neighbor of reporting it to authorities.

It is not unusual to share test results and announce positive cases in building WeChat groups, as authorities try to control the largest outbreak of the virus in China since the virus was first detected in Wuhan in late 2019.

One US citizen was told she would be sent to a quarantine center after the results of a mixed test, including her own, came back positive last week, sparking panic. Three others whose samples were in the batch were taken into quarantine, but their home tests continued to be negative.

“In group chats, they were saying things like, ‘Ah, are the positive people still here, are the positive people still here?'” she said, declining to give her name. “.

Older residents, who are more susceptible to COVID-19, were more likely to demand immediate expulsion of positive cases from their pool.

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“Because the media has exaggerated the disease, and because the elderly have weaker immune systems, they are more afraid of the virus than the young,” said one resident who witnessed this happen.

Neighbors suspected that another foreign resident, who only wanted to be identified as Alexei, had COVID-19 when a test result failed to upload to his health app.

His building management has tried to prevent food from being delivered to his family unless they share home test results with the rest of the population – a requirement that many Shanghainese said is widespread and infringes on privacy.

“They don’t have guidelines and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) services are overwhelmed,” he said. “They felt invested in the most important mission of their lives, being able to play the role of doctor, policeman, and judge at the same time.”


Some people were denied entry to their homes and ordered to stay in hotels after being released from central quarantine, in violation of state guidelines.

Another foreign resident who tested positive said she was confined to her apartment instead of being sent to the central quarantine, much to the chagrin of her neighbors, who asked her to leave, tried to exclude her from mass grocery orders, and even demanded an official apology.

She said a neighbor called her “foreign litter” while spreading the latest lies about her mental health, and the residence committee offered no help.

“I saw screenshots of them telling residents to keep calling to get me out,” she said, adding that she would be out as soon as possible.

Additional reporting by David Stanway, Josh Horowitz, Andrew Galbraith and Engin Tham, Shanghai Editorial Room; Editing by Stephen Coates

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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