COVID Is Surging in Shanghai. Why Are There No Deaths?

The city's harsh virus-containment policies may prevent serious illness, but human cost is high
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 11, 2022 3:15 AM CDT
Shanghai Reports No Deaths Despite 130K COVID Cases
Residents line up for the first round of mass COVID testing in the Jingan district of western Shanghai, China, Friday, April 1, 2022. Shanghai's harsh lockdown is an abrupt about-face from just a month ago, when some Chinese health experts publicly suggested softening pandemic control measures.   (AP Photo/Chen Si, File)

(Newser) – Since March 1, the city of Shanghai has reported more than 130,000 COVID cases, no deaths, and a single severe case. These statistics stand out "compared with outbreaks elsewhere," reports the Wall Street Journal. For example, Hong Kong has seen deaths sharply rise recently, despite following a similar model to mainland China, which in March reported its first COVID death in over a year. Per the Journal, there are various reasons why COVID death rates can vary from one place to another, including "diverging methods for ... recording pandemic data," but the basic virus-containment policy in China's second-largest city may be a key differentiating factor.

In addition to high vaccination rates, Dr. Wu Zunyou of the Chinese CDC credits efforts to "detect and curb outbreaks at an early stage," plus the fact that they treat all patients, including mild cases. The "various measures" include testing all residents and quarantining all positive cases in facilities staffed by exhausted medical workers. Plus, as of early April, Shanghai is on a full citywide lockdown, marking the return to a harsh and unwelcome policy that began early in the pandemic. Indeed, the US on Sunday advised Americans to rethink travel to China, citing COVID-19 restrictions and a risk of "parents and children being separated," reports the AP.

A week into the sudden lockdown, some residents worry they will starve or suffer from lack of access to medicine. The Daily Beast reports on videos of Shanghai residents screaming for help from their apartments. Pet care is another major concern. On Friday, per CNN, video emerged of a COVID worker beating a corgi to death in the street after its owner tested positive, apparently for fear the pet could be a vector. The incident prompted outrage on Chinese social media, with some suggesting something "once considered unthinkable within the country: that China's zero-COVID battle had gone too far." (Read more Shanghai stories.)

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