Thousands of visitors at Shanghai Disneyland got the shock of their lives Sunday night, Oct. 31, when they were locked inside the park to be tested for Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19). The theme park trapped all visitors in the park after receiving news of one confirmed COVID-19 case.
Against their will, over 34,000 park visitors stayed at the amusement park until testing was over. China’s COVID Zero policy is still in full effect, with Beijing maintaining strict protocols even though other advocates of the policy are already reconsidering.
People in Hazmat suits entered Shanghai Disneyland en masse to test visitors before allowing them to leave the premises. The whole process ended close to midnight, long after people usually stay at the park. The tested visitors were sent home on 220 special buses.
On Monday, Nov. 1, results revealed that all visitors were negative. However, they were required to isolate at home for two days. All of them will be re-tested for coronavirus after two weeks.
Shanghai Disneyland was locked down after a woman who traveled to Shanghai from Hangzhou over the weekend was tested positive for COVID-19. Officials still haven’t confirmed if she visited Disneyland, but her infection set off an “aggressive” contact tracing effort throughout China, eventually trapping all park-goers and park staff.
The whole process shows how far China will go to control the spread of COVID-19. Shanghai Disneyland reopened on Wednesday, Nov. 3.
After China managed to contain its initial outbreak in Wuhan last April, the country used every resource to try and eliminate COVID-19, even enforcing a draconian COVID Zero policy with border curbs and mandatory quarantines. The country also imposed localized lockdowns and mass testing to seek out cases before an outbreak.
China insists on COVID Zero policy amid push-back from citizens and businesses
While other countries started opening their borders and learning how to live with the virus, China imposed even stricter policies. At the same time, waves of the highly contagious delta variant are becoming more frequent. The current surge, totaling an estimated 480 cases, has already spread to more than half of the provinces in China.
With the rise of delta cases, the COVID Zero policy continues to make lives harder for citizens while it allegedly seems to be effective in controlling infections. (Related: Chinese whistleblower says COVID intentionally released during October 2019 military games in Wuhan.)
A small county in Jiangxi, a southeast Chinese province, turned all its traffic lights to red after one COVID-19 case was detected. The case broke the province’s 610-day COVID-free record.
Local authorities claimed that the excessive move aimed to reduce mobility, but Chinese social media heavily criticized the move even though dissent is often censored in the country. According to local media, the move was soon canceled and the lights resumed working normally.
In Beijing, the many restrictions of the COVID Zero policy have had disastrous results. Some residents who left the capital said that they are unable to return because they are recorded as recently being in the city, parts of which are currently classed as high risk because of a small outbreak.
Countless citizens who have been stuck at airports and train stations around the country have posted about their problems on social media to ask for help and to criticize the draconian rules.
Baby tested at least 74 times for COVID-19
COVID Zero measures have also reached Ruili, a small southeastern city near the remote border with Myanmar. Citizens have experienced four lockdowns within the past seven months. Local media in Ruili reported about a baby who had been tested at least 74 times for coronavirus since September 2020, when mass testing of cities and populations was China’s means of fighting the pandemic.
All 268,000 residents are banned from leaving as infections keep spreading from Myanmar, which is having a hard time managing coronavirus cases. Dai Rongli, Ruili’s former deputy mayor, asked the government to reconsider its oppressive COVID Zero policy. He posted on social medial to say that the extended lockdowns “have sent the city into an impasse.”
Ruili can only recover amid the pandemic if it is allowed to “resume production and essential businesses.”
“The government should learn its lessons in balancing the big picture with the local situation as well as people’s livelihoods and COVID control,” added Rongli. He said that Ruili needs help to effectively curb infections and that the restrictions were hard on small businesses.
Despite these cries for help, it seems unlikely that China will ease restrictions, especially since President Xi Jinping is slated to speak at an upcoming key import conference in Shanghai and the Winter Olympics is taking place near Beijing in less than 100 days.
Jinping hasn’t left China since the pandemic began. He did not attend the Group of Twenty (G20) nations meeting in Rome, along with the climate talks ongoing in Scotland.
Back in August, Zeng Guang, the former chief scientist of epidemiology at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told local media that the country insists on the COVID Zero policy because of low vaccination rates and the need for “updated” coronavirus vaccines.
To date, China has fully vaccinated over 75 percent of its 1.4 billion people with homegrown inoculations. The country is currently giving boosters to adults.
Most of the vaccines and boosters come from Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and the state-backed Sinopharm, but both vaccines use traditional inactivated vaccine technology that is ineffective at stopping transmission and infection.
Go to Pandemic.news for more updates on China and other countries that are handling the coronavirus pandemic.