‘Breaking point’: Expat Australians in extreme Shanghai lockdown beg for help



Australian families caught up in Shanghai’s extreme lockdown say they are at breaking point and have accused the Australian government of doing little to help.

The Chinese financial capital has been in lockdown for five weeks to stamp out a COVID outbreak, with residents forced to remain in their homes or enter mass quarantine centres if they test positive.

The measures have stirred rare public anger, with many of the city’s 25 million people confined for more than a month, some sealed inside fenced off residential compounds and many struggling to secure daily necessities.

Australian families told the ABC they had been targeted with late-night door knocking to pressure them to attend the quarantine centres which are reported to have poor conditions.

The expats accused the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) of not advocating for citizens forced from their homes or those seeking to leave the country, the ABC reports.

“If I was arrested, I’d be getting better consular support than if I get thrown into one of these quarantine centres,” said Nick Oettinger.

“People are being dragged from their homes, there are unsanitary conditions, no one is speaking English and there’s no consular access.

“Surely there must be a diplomatic protest from Canberra about this.

“I don’t think anyone is asking the Australian government to ride in on a white horse and save us, but there are practical things they could do and I can’t understand why they’re not doing them.”

Mr Oettinger said the government could give more help to Australians desperate to return home.

“How hard would it be for the consulate to organise a charter flight?” he said.

“To pick up the phone to Qantas, to do the sums and talk to the Australian community in Shanghai with the figures of how much it would cost us each?”

One of the mass quarantine centres in Shanghai. Photo: AAP

In the latest testing results, Shanghai was dealt a blow as authorities reported 58 new COVID-19 cases outside quarantine areas after no cases on the weekend.

Authorities did not comment on the new cases at a media briefing but members of the public weighed in online.

“They announced that they stamped out cases at the community level too early,” one person commented on the Weibo social media platform.

But many people also took heart from data that showed an encouraging trend with 32 new deaths on Sunday, compared with 38 a day earlier, and 6606 new asymptomatic cases, from 7084 the previous day.

“There is hope for May,” another Weibo user said.

Shanghai residents have cooped up for five weeks. Photo: AAP

The fast-spreading Omicron variant has tested China’s ‘zero-COVID’ policy this year, an important one for President Xi Jinping who is expected to secure a precedent-setting third leadership term.

China’s COVID policy looks increasingly bizarre to much of the outside world.

Many governments have eased restrictions, or thrown them off altogether, in a bid to “live with COVID” even though infections are spreading.

China has given no hint of deviating from its policy despite a mounting toll on the world’s second-largest economy, and the ripples of disruption travelling out through global supply chains.

In the capital, home to 22 million people, authorities have tightened COVID restrictions over the five-day Labour Day holiday that runs until Wednesday, traditionally one of the busiest tourist seasons.

Beijing, with dozens of daily infections in an outbreak now approaching two weeks, has not locked down, instead relying on mass testing to locate and isolate infections.

Beijing’s restaurants are closed for dining in and some apartment blocks are sealed shut.

The streets are quiet and residents who do venture out have to show negative virus tests to enter most public venues.

Authorities are tracking down close contacts of confirmed cases, warning them to stay at home and contact authorities, and calling on everyone to abide by lockdown rules.

China reported 7822 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, down from 8329 a day earlier, the National Health Commission said on Monday.

All of China’s 32 new deaths were in Shanghai, taking the country’s overall official death toll since the virus emerged to 5092.

India, the only country with a comparable population to China’s 1.4 billion people, has officially recorded more than half a million deaths, though some health experts believe its toll is even higher.

-with AAP

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