China deploys warning drone as Shanghai protests lockdown
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Authorities in China have taken to flying a drone broadcasting a warning to the residents of Shanghai to “control your soul’s desire for freedom” amid balcony protests over a strict Covid lockdown was extended. Over 25 million are currently under lockdown as China tries to curb the number of concerning new coronavirus infections recorded across the country.
Alice Su, Senior China correspondent at The Economist, wrote on Twitter to reveal the drone’s full message to residents.
She translated the drone’s instructions as: “Please comply with covid restrictions.
“Control your soul’s desire for freedom.
“Do not open the window or sing.”
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The lockdown of China’s most populous city, which started in parts of Shanghai 10 days ago and has now confined nearly all of its 26 million residents at home, has massively disrupted daily life and business.
Public criticisms of the curbs, part of Beijing’s COVID elimination strategy, have ranged from complaints of overcrowded and unsanitary quarantine centres to difficulties in buying food or accessing medical treatment.
While Shanghai’s case numbers remain small by global standards, the city has emerged as a testbed for China’s “dynamic clearance” anti-Covid strategy, which seeks to test, trace and centrally quarantine all positive cases and their close contacts
Analysts say the restrictions’ impact on the economy is mounting, especially for small businesses, with nearly 200 million people across China under some sort of lockdown, according to estimates by Nomura.
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The most controversial of Shanghai’s practices has been separating Covid-positive children from their parents, which came to the fore on Saturday and triggered widespread anger across the country.
The Shanghai government responded two days ago by allowing parents who were also infected to accompany their children to Covid isolation centres.
But complaints persisted over children separated from parents who were not covid-positive.
In a further concession on Wednesday, a Shanghai health official said guardians of children with special requirements who are infected with covid could now apply to escort them, but would need to comply with certain rules and sign a letter saying they were aware of the risks.
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When pressed for further information, Shanghai officials said they had issued guidelines to relevant medical institutions and that parents who wanted to accompany their children could consult those institutions.
The comments brought widespread public relief, especially among parents, although some questioned why there was still a need to apply.
A hashtag on the subject on China’s Weibo social media platform drew more than 40 million views by Wednesday afternoon.
“This is the right thing to do, carry out management in a humane way,” said one widely liked Weibo comment.
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