Shanghai Coronavirus Lockdown: What’s happening and why COVID-19 cases are still surging in China, even after ‘Zero COVID policy’

China is currently grappling with its worst COVID-19 outbreak since Wuhan. One of its biggest cities Shanghai, a metropolis of about 25 million people, is working towards curbing the spread of the virus and in a bid to do so, the government has confined people to their homes, imposed strict lockdowns and facilitated multiple rounds of mass testing.

However, the lockdowns have grievously impacted people’s mental, social and economic situation, leading them to protest and express their fury in the form of violence. What’s worse is that even after the country’s strict COVID policies, there has been a constant uptick in the cases, which is one of the reasons why things are not going back to normalcy. Even as Shanghai prepares to ease its lockdown, seven COVID-19 deaths have been reported today (Wednesday, April 20).

What is China’s Zero COVID policy?

Since the beginning of the pandemic i.e. the Wuhan outbreak, China’s ‘Zero COVID’ strategy has proven to be exceptionally stringent. Not only does it include tight lockdowns and intrusive surveillance of the Chinese population, but it also facilitates immediate mass testing. Unlike many other countries, China was successful in managing the COVID crisis initially, until the emergence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

That said, the “zero COVID policy” is the Chinese government’s way of tackling the coronavirus crisis and so far, it is said to have contained over 30 outbreaks, including the ones that were driven by the Delta.

Unlike lockdown strategies in other countries, it is incredibly rigid, which means it involves confining people to their homes and buildings, restricting their movements and forceful transfer of COVID positive patients and high risk contacts to government authorized quarantine facilities.

Additionally public places like schools, supermarkets, tourist areas and malls are off-limits for the people and with the help of mandatory track-and-trace apps, close contacts are usually identified and quarantined immediately.

How are people in Shanghai coping with its strict lockdowns?

Since the imposition of lockdowns in Shanghai, residents have continuously expressed their frustrations in the form of protests, screams and what not. Social media has been brimming with videos that showcase the despair of the Chinese people. Local residents have been screaming from their apartment balconies after being confined indoors for days.

The lockdowns have taken a serious toll on people’s daily lives. From shortage of food supplies and medications to being deprived of basic essentials, all these factors have triggered widespread anger and exasperation.

Furthermore, since China’s dynamic zero-COVID policy requires everyone who tests positive to be isolated and quarantined, children too are being torn apart and separated from their parents. An Israeli businessman told Time that two of his children aged 9 and 13 were taken away and isolated in a Shanghai hospital for a month after testing positive in March 2020.

Parents have and continue to raise their voices against child separation amid such critical times. Reports suggest foreign diplomats from over 30 countries have by now sent letters to the government to protest the ongoing practice.

Why COVID cases continue to surge

As of today (Wednesday, April 20), Shanghai has reported more than 18,000 new and mostly asymptomatic coronavirus cases. Since March, the tally goes over 400,000 infections and on Monday, the city reported its first COVID-19 death.

While the country continues to extend its strict policies, coronavirus cases continue to surge. Experts have said that the uptick in numbers is due to the prevalence of highly transmissible Omicron variants.

The omicron variant was discovered in November 2021 by researchers in South Africa. However, within a few weeks, it was observed that the variant had several other sub-lineages BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3, , which were as contagious as its parent strain.

Reports of COVID-19 deaths; low vaccination rate in China’s vast elderly population to blame?

Shanghai officials reported seven COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, increasing the total fatality tally to 17. Although the official figures seem low, experts have raised doubts about the same stating that most patients were elderly and unvaccinated.

According to reports, the first three people who died were older adults and had not received their vaccination against COVID-19. Similarly, the seven people confirmed dead were aged between 60 and 101 and also unvaccinated, city health official Wu Qianyu told a news conference. Additionally, the patients who succumbed to the virus also had pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes and heart diseases, as per the authorities.

What we should learn from the COVID situation in China

China’s Zero COVID policy has become a major topic of discussion in recent times. While it is gruesome and an exhaustive strategy, it is a reminder that the COVID pandemic is not over yet.

That said, wearing your masks, maintaining social distance, being aware of your symptoms and isolating on your own are some steps you must take to curb the spread of the virus.

Since COVID cases have started to rise in many Indian states, it is important to be more vigilant to avoid another wave. Additionally, those who are yet to receive your vaccinations, get it immediately. Although breakthrough infections are a possibility, COVID vaccines are still our best shot against the virus.


  1. What is China’s Zero COVID policy?
    Zero COVID policy is a public health policy implemented by the Chinese government to curb the spread of the SARs-CoV-2 virus. It is in contrast to the living with COVID-19 strategy, and involves tight lockdowns, mass testing, border quarantine and more.
  2. Which countries have the highest COVID cases right now?
    Currently, the United States, India and Brazil have the highest COVID cases. According to reports, 226 countries and territories globally have reported a total of 506,103,967 confirmed cases of COVID-19 along with a death toll of 6,228,338.
  3. Why are COVID cases surging?
    The fast spreading Omicron variant is said to be driving the current uptick in different parts of the world.

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