William Miller, MD
Shanghaied at Disneyland
Imagine that you and your kids have just gotten off the Teacup at Disneyland and are thinking of finding a place to eat lunch when loudspeakers suddenly announce that the entire park has been placed under a COVID lockdown and that no one will be allowed to leave unless they test negative. In a panic, crowds surge towards the exits, only to find the gates locked and armed police standing arm-in-arm blocking the way out.
This is not a scene we would expect in America, however, this is the second time visitors at the Disneyland in Shanghai, China, have experienced it as a result of China’s strict zero-COVID policy. I reported more detail on this policy and Shanghai’s ongoing challenges with lockdowns in the April 11th and May 16th editions of the Miller Report earlier this year.
On October 31st, as visitors to the park were celebrating a special Halloween festival, the Chinese government ordered a “snap lockdown” of the park because one person who had tested positive had visited the park three days earlier. This led to about 400,000 people being detained while teams of medical workers tested each and every one before they could leave. It took about 10 hours until the last visitors were tested and released. Interestingly, none of the 400,000 reportedly tested positive. Some might say this is a testimony to the success of the zero-COVID policy. Many of the visitors complained on social media that they were tired, cold and hungry by the end. At least, some of the rides were kept running.
This lockdown is part of a larger lockdown currently effecting 1.3 million people living in the Yangpu district of Shanghai which was triggered when 10 people tested positive on October 29th, according to reports appearing in Reuters and on the BBC website. China has seen rising numbers of new cases over the past two months. China is currently experiencing about 1,000 new cases being reported per day. That hardly seems significant in a country of 1.45 billion. Of course, there are questions raised about whether the numbers are underreported. On the other hand, perhaps the strict lockdown policy is working if the goal is to minimize cases throughout the country, but at what cost? According to Reuters, currently over 200 Chinese cities are under lockdown effecting hundreds of millions of people.
Back in April, the entire city of Shanghai with 25 million residents was placed in a strict lockdown that lasted 9 weeks. The was in response to an outbreak of COVID in the city that began on February 28th and was continuing to spread until the lockdown was initiated. Locals were tested every three days and were not allowed to leave their homes for any reason, including to get groceries or medications. Government workers delivered rations; however, food shortages were reported starting within two weeks and continued for the duration. Anyone testing positive was taken to regional quarantine centers. Children were separated from their parents if one was positive and the other tested negative. This led some world health leaders to call the result a “humanitarian crisis.”
The economic impact has been felt globally. Shanghai is the central hub of China’s financial network, akin to our New York Stock Exchange. The lockdown had a significant impact on China’s markets with losses experienced for local and foreign investors as the value of many stocks plummeted. The Port of Shanghai is the world’s busiest cargo container port with over 45 million containers moving through per year. During the two-month long lockdown, the port was able to maintain 80% of its volume. However, that still meant that almost 8 million cargo containers got backed up. This did have a noticeable impact on global supply chains.
It will be interesting to see how long this current lockdown in Shanghai will last and will it expand to include the entire city as it did just 7 months ago. Also, what will the long-term economic cost to China be as these strict lockdowns continue to recur.
As we ponder the results of our own elections this week, I hope that we can at least agree on one thing, that we can be thankful we don’t face such totalitarian policies in our own country.
[photo by Li Yang using Unsplash]