Friday, May 13, 2022

Lockdown Diaries: Restrictions on Chinese Citizens Leaving China

"These walls are funny. First you hate them, then you get used to them. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them. That's institutionalized." Image source.

Posts about the covid outbreak in Shanghai, China:

On the Current Covid Outbreak in Shanghai (March 12)
I'm in Lockdown (March 16)
I'm Still in Lockdown (March 19)
I'm in Lockdown Again (March 25)
Now All of Pudong (East Shanghai) is in Lockdown (March 28)
Lockdown Diaries: Covid Case in Our Complex, and Free Veggies from the Government (March 31)
Lockdown Diaries: Antigen Self-Tests, and Children with Covid (April 3)
Lockdown Diaries: Dressing Up, Free Medicine, Free Rice (April 6)
Lockdown Diaries: I am Okay, Shanghai is Not (April 9)
Lockdown Diaries: Part of Shanghai is Out of Lockdown (April 12)
Lockdown Diaries: Dystopian Madness (April 15)
Lockdown Diaries: 3 Covid Deaths Reported in Shanghai (April 18)
Lockdown Diaries: More of the Same (April 22)
Lockdown Diaries: This is a Human-Made Disaster (April 26)
Lockdown Diaries: Exciting New Definition of "Society" (May 1)
Lockdown Diaries: Some People Can Go to the Grocery Store (May 3)
Lockdown Diaries: More and More People Get to Go Out (a little bit) (May 7)
Lockdown Diaries: Taking a Whole Building to Quarantine (May 10)

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Here's the updated timeline:

March 16-21: First lockdown. 6 days.

March 23-now: Second lockdown. 52 days and counting.

Nucleic acid tests (conducted by baymax, ie, the workers in white hazmat suits): 25 times (March 16, 17, 19, 20, 23, 26, 28, 30, April 4, 6, 9, 14, 17, 19, 20, 21, 24, 26, 27, 29, May 2, 4, 6, 10, 12)

Antigen self-tests: 24 times (April 2, 3, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13 [twice], 15, 16, 22, 23, 25, 28 [twice], 30, May 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 13)

(The above info is specific to our apartment complex. Other apartment complexes in Shanghai will have a similar situation but not exactly the same.)

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Stats

I haven't written much about the actual stats about covid cases during this lockdown. But let me give you an overall summary. The number of cases has been going down. Way down. We had like 20,000 per day a few weeks ago, and now it's something like 1000 to 2000 per day.

That's great, but it's not zero, so this could drag on for a long time.

Also for some reason nobody is publishing a decent graph of this. Wish I had a graph to show you.

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WHO says China's zero-covid policy is not sustainable

On May 11, a video of WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus saying China needs to move away from the "zero-covid policy" because it's "not sustainable" was being shared around on WeChat. 

And then, of course, a few hours later, the link didn't work because it was censored.

Also, on May 10, a study was published in "Nature", by researchers from Shanghai's Fudan University and also from the US, modelling the effects of different strategies and how many people would die of covid. The study found that if China just stops "zero covid" without doing anything else, 1.55 million people would die. They also modelled other strategies like increasing vaccination rates among elderly people, which has a much better result. The study is here, and this article gives a good summary of it.

So... Honestly I don't agree with "it's time to end zero-covid" but I do agree that something different needs to happen. A lot of things have gone wrong in this lockdown, and it's not okay. 

Here's another thing, though: Right now all the focus is on Shanghai and all things that are going wrong here. But what about all the other cities in China? There are many many cities in China that have 0 covid cases now- that have had basically 0 for the past 2 years. It doesn't make sense to give up on zero-covid and let those other cities (which are currently living normal lives without a fear of getting covid) get overwhelmed by the new omicron waves that would result.

Beijing has had a few covid cases recently, and people there are in a bit of a panic. I have also heard of some other cities doing lockdowns and mass testing. But there are tons of other cities in China which don't make the news because this isn't happening there. They're fine.

So... it definitely can't be "oh let's just stop this lockdown, stop the zero-covid policy"- you have to put more thought into it than that. (Even though I personally would benefit A LOT from ending zero-covid. I would finally be able to travel freely between China and the US. I have been stuck in China for the entire pandemic, you guys. But also, my son is too little to be vaccinated, so I am concerned about that.)

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Not letting Chinese citizens leave

So it was announced that Chinese citizens are not allowed to leave China unless it's "necessary." That's kind of, umm, scary, but also I don't really know what it means. Is it different from what they've already been doing? For the entire pandemic, China has made it more difficult for Chinese citizens to get new passports or to renew their expired passports. Generally you need a really good reason, like a job offer in another country, or you're going abroad to study, or you are visiting relatives who are on their deathbed. This was the policy about issuing new passports- but if you already had a passport, it didn't affect you, you were still allowed to leave. (I mean, there are of course hoops to jump through for that, like requirements for covid-testing before your flight, the risk of flights getting cancelled, etc, and then the big huge problem of how to get back into China later- but yeah, people were allowed to leave.)

So, now they're saying Chinese citizens shouldn't leave China unless it's "necessary", and I don't know what that actually means in practical terms. I have heard anecdotes of Chinese citizens being questioned before getting on flights to leave the country- but these are just anecdotes, we don't really know what the situation is overall.

My husband and son are Chinese citizens. (My son also has US citizenship, but China doesn't recognize dual citizenship, so it doesn't do us much good in this situation.) I feel like of concerned about being stuck here... but also I'm fairly sure that if we were moving permanently, that would be seen as a good enough reason... probably the issue is they don't want people thinking "oh I'll just go abroad for a few months and come back when this lockdown is done" (lol remember all the people who tried that in 2020 and it didn't work out well) and then it'll be a big problem having all these Chinese citizens from covid-infested places trying to reenter the country. Or maybe it's more like, they're concerned about a mass exodus of Chinese citizens who are young and educated and have international connections and know that this lockdown is bullshit.

Anyway... yeah, kind of worrisome. But we weren't planning to leave during the lockdown anyway, so, it shouldn't actually affect us. Still, though, makes me feel stuck.

Sixth Tone article: China Restricts Citizens From ‘Non-Essential’ Foreign Travel (May 12)

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And an update on us

Well our complex has been a "precautionary area" for several days now, which is the best category to be in, but we still haven't heard anything about being allowed to leave the complex.

Like... nothing is open out there anyway, why would we even want to leave? Though I am super curious about what the empty streets look like- I would go out for that reason, if they let us.

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Links:

Sixth Tone:

Shanghai Sets New ‘Zero-COVID’ Target, Plans to Reopen Schools (May 13) When I saw the announcement today, on the Shanghai government's WeChat, that laid out the steps toward reopening, I was just like, lol. It's a nice idea, but does anyone believe this is actually going to happen? My favorite part was how they're going to achieve "zero covid" in "mid-May"... do they realize it ALREADY IS mid-May?

Shanghai’s ‘Psychological Emergency’ Warrants Attention (May 11)

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