One of the world’s most significant human rights abusers vowed to keep confining tens of millions of people to their homes despite a rising number of intentional deaths.
A Beijing leader refuses to remove coronavirus (Chinese Communist Party or CCP virus) restrictions altogether, even though many citizens have already taken their own lives.
Xi Jinping quickly dismissed any suggestion mainland China should fully reverse lockdown rules for Shanghai, Tianjin, and other virus hotspots that have remained in place since March 28. But, according to Chinese state-run media, he claimed the pandemic was still “very serious” and warned so-called prevention and control work “cannot be relaxed” anytime soon.
The CCP’s general secretary claimed the communist-ruled nation would overcome the pandemic by persevering through unpopular and long-term stay-at-home mandates.
37 million isolated
The strict measures have already forced more than 37 million people into isolation. Although two volunteers from each apartment building are permitted to spend two hours a day shopping for groceries, many have complained about chronic supply shortages and feeling malnourished. There have also been reports of residents having to barter for certain kinds of food, hunt around for bread, loot supermarkets and resort to civil disobedience.
“It is the first time in my life I have had to worry about securing food [and] now I am worried we will run out of milk for our kids,” one anonymous Shanghai business leader said, according to the Daily Caller.
Resident Guan Zejun recently begged authorities to help source more food, especially after supplies began running low.
“I am used to the feeling of being hungry now [and] I never expected that in the 21st Century, in a big city like Shanghai, I would experience what my grandparent’s generation lived through of not being able to fill my stomach,” he added according to the publication.
Several residents ended their lives in desperation to escape the pain and suffering inflicted by harsh CCP virus mandates.
In one video, an individual is dangling from a high-rise building window in Shanghai. Then, finally, he releases his grip and plunges nearly 30 stories to his death.
More footage shows someone falling backward out of a fifth-story window and crashing head-first onto the grass below. A bystander runs over to check for vital signs and offers first-aid to the fatally injured person. According to the Quora website, in most cases, landing on the head can cause instant death.
Other images seemingly depict a woman falling 10 floors. She lands on her bottom and lies motionless on the concrete pavement as startled bystanders watch the tragedy unfold. Then, in a different video, a man jumps off the top of a 20-story building with extended arms. He tumbles in the air before finally landing on his back. A bystander covers his ears and walks away from the scene.
In other footage, a man crouches on a ledge and jumps off. He falls about seven floors before landing feet-first on the sidewalk below. A woman exits a nearby shop to see what happened after hearing a loud thump outside the premises.
Other videos show a woman clinging onto a balcony as her neighbors gather on the ledge below. Then, finally, she releases her grip, and at least two neighbors unsuccessfully try to catch her as she plunges to the ground.
A team of four city officials wearing hazmat suits put the motionless woman into a black body bag before transporting her to a nearby coroner’s office.
“[A] large number of Shanghai residents commit suicide in desperation of strict COVID lockdown[s] in China,” political commentator Zaid Ahmd said on Twitter.
“[One] couple committed suicide during quarantine in Tianjin,” Stanford Knight fellow Watson Meng added on Twitter.
Despite the disturbing nature of the footage, Xi will persist with his dynamic Zero CCP virus policy and anti-epidemic protocols to defeat the pandemic. He maintained his administration puts people and lives “first” through adhering to science, vigorous clearing, and paying close attention to various epidemic prevention and control measures.
He also urged everyone to overcome “paralyzing” thoughts, war-weariness, “fluke” mentality, and the “slack” mindset.
US Consulate evacuates
Xi’s remarks came after the Department of State ordered non-essential government employees and their family members to evacuate the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai. The State Department previously authorized a voluntary departure but later changed it to a mandatory evacuation due to the rising number of infections across the Pearl of the Orient.
According to NBC News, more than 25,146 asymptomatic cases and 2,573 symptomatic infections were recorded across Shanghai on April 14. However, according to Reuters, new local transmissions fell on April 18 to 19,442.
Those who test positive are transported to quarantine facilities for up to two weeks. Then, according to the Daily Caller, infected residents are locked in their homes or apartment buildings when those facilities reach capacity.
“Our change in posture reflects our assessment that it is best for our employees and their families to be reduced in number and our operations to be scaled down as we deal with the changing circumstances on the ground,” the U.S. Embassy said.
“Employees and family members will depart on commercial flights. The department ordered the departure due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak,” it added.
Ambassador Robert Burns joined departmental and mission officials in expressing concern about Americans’ “safety and welfare” in mainland China.
“The United States has no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas, including mission China’s personnel and their families,” the embassy said.
“For U.S. citizens in Shanghai who wish to depart China, commercial flights remain available but are limited. We are engaged with the issue of airport access for U.S. citizen travelers with confirmed air tickets,” it added.
Embassy staff will be available 24 hours a day to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens across China. Staffing has been adjusted throughout the mission to respond to the surge in demand for emergency citizen services, including providing supplemental support from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
“Where conditions permit, regular U.S. citizen and visa services remain open to the public, and facilities at the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai will reopen to the public as soon as possible,” the embassy said.
Beijing ‘firmly’ opposes
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Information Department criticized the evacuation and any suggestion Americans are at risk of contracting the CCP virus.
Chinese officials expressed strong dissatisfaction and “firmly opposed” the State Department’s so-called groundless allegations against the CCP’s epidemic response policies. They also lodged solemn representations with the U.S. side.
The ministry claimed its anti-epidemic policies were based on science and would prevail over the pandemic’s new wave in Shanghai and other parts of mainland China.
It also claimed the Zero CCP virus policy is based on “guiding principles” from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Deputy director Zhao Lijian also claimed the country’s tough lockdowns “effectively” protected the life and health of all living in China. He then alleged WHO officials, and governments worldwide, speak “highly” of the CCP’s extreme crackdown on those who become infected.
Zhao suggested the growing number of suicide victims in Shanghai, Tianjin, and other cities had a “limited” impact on daily life and production in both duration and scope. However, he indicated their sacrifice allowed different parts of the nation to enjoy “normal life and production.”
He admitted this normality came at a significant “price” and also claimed mainland China was one of the world’s most successful jurisdictions at containing the CCP virus, despite the pandemic’s origins having been traced back to Wuhan City in Central China.
PCR testing blitz
Shanghai authorities lately asked the public to cooperate with a major effort to test most of the city’s population for the disease.
Some residents have refused to participate in polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. Mainstream media speculated they are either weary from weeks of CCP virus restrictions or concerned about the risk of being infected by crowds.
“By conducting multiple, consecutive rounds of PCR testing we will be able to dynamically detect positive cases as early as possible, as this will help us to reach zero-COVID at community level more quickly,” city health official Hu Xiaobo said according to Reuters.
The newswire agency revealed Shanghai authorities want to stop the virus from spreading beyond quarantined areas as early as April 20. April 19 saw 550 cases detected outside the quarantine zones, down from 561 on April 18. It was the fourth consecutive decline recorded at the time of publication.
The April 20 target also potentially marks a turning point that could bring lighter restrictions. Exactly how Shanghai will reopen remains unclear. However, daily PCR and rapid antigen testing of millions of residents are widely expected to help achieve that goal.
The CCP’s broader pandemic strategy involves testing, tracing, and centrally quarantining all positive cases and close contacts. In addition, tens of thousands of people have been sent to isolation facilities, and many more are forced to isolate themselves at home due to their proximity to infected people.
The city has already lifted movement restrictions for some people in low-risk areas. However, the vast majority still face a strict lockdown.
Public transport remains closed and unapproved vehicles are banned from roads. Only police, delivery drivers, neighborhood committee members, and healthcare workers have full access to public routes.
Patients recently criticized converted schools, apartment blocks, and other quarantine centers for being overcrowded and unsanitary.
Some social media users complained about busloads of neighbors being forcibly removed from their homes and sent into quarantine.
Photos shared on the internet seemingly show older adults in wheelchairs, wearing face masks and protective gear. They arrive by bus outside a quarantine center. Other pictures depict babies or loved ones over 90 years old transported to makeshift hospitals in the middle of the night.
Chinese health experts want CCP officials to explain precisely how zero transmission outside quarantined areas is defined.
The China Center for Disease Control and Prevention chief epidemiologist Wu Zunyou indicated that zero transmission might mean there are no “freely active” cases in the general population.
Authorities have also been accused of failing to record CCP virus fatalities in the death count. As a result, at least one grieving Shanghai family claims their loved one died from the disease. Still, authorities did not add the case to official statistics, raising questions about the accuracy of official data.
Tension is boiling even from within the CCP’s ranks. Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan recently visited Shanghai to criticize local authorities for “lying flat” and creating chaos in disease prevention.
Minhang District People’s Congress Rep. Yang Hai separately urged everyone to boycott nucleic acid testing methods on behalf of community volunteers.
The former Aerospace Factory party committee secretary claimed Pingyang Liucun residents had 13 nucleic acid tests and nine rapid antigen tests since March 13. However, the number of infections continues to rise in tandem with the number of patients tested, leading Yang to suspect possible cross-infection from frequent testing.
He also complained about “opaque and inaccurate” updates once testing is complete and a failure to evacuate infected patients promptly. He was also concerned about the lack of hospital-grade disinfection.
Although these concerns were relayed to all levels of government, nobody took decisive action, according to the Secret China website.
He described the treatment as a whirlpool of “willful, stubborn, crushing, desperate and forcible advancement.”
State-run media has also begun to criticize the Chinese leadership’s handling of the pandemic. For example, Shangguan News urged all levels of Shanghai officials to come forward with their concerns and help “solve problems” for people. The media outlet published the message with the headline stating there is no reason for leaders to “delay or dodge.”
Mental health concerns
A University of Minnesota study recently confirmed that CCP virus restrictions could lead to various mental health challenges.
The meta-analysis “One year on: what we have learned about the psychological effects of COVID-19 social restrictions” found extended limits on social connections and emotional bonding caused more loneliness, depression, and post-traumatic stress.
“Overall, mental health symptoms were significantly worse when people were exposed to mandated social restrictions and quarantine measures,” the study said.
Psychology professor Jeff Simpson and the rest of the research team, led by Deakin University fellow Laura Knox, also found severe lockdowns could worsen individual mental health challenges.
“Depression was significantly higher in people exposed to strict compared to moderate social restrictions, whereas anxiety was significantly higher for those exposed to low compared to moderate social restrictions,” the study said.
“In terms of length of exposure to social restrictions (less than two weeks), stress was significantly higher for people experiencing shorter social restrictions (i.e. less than two weeks) compared to those experiencing longer restrictions,” it added.
They found participants from Europe were significantly more depressed than their counterparts in the Americas, Western Pacific, and other regions. Those without health ailments also experienced more severe symptoms than those who did.
“Additionally, outcomes of depression were significantly higher among people who reported no preexisting physical or mental health conditions than those who did, and among people under age 18 or between 31 and 59 compared with older adults,” the study said.
“For depression, strict restrictions are associated with higher symptoms; for anxiety, low social restrictions are associated with higher symptoms; [and] for stress, shorter social restrictions are associated with greater stress symptomatology,” it added.
Researchers revealed that top factors impacting individual mental health include job insecurity, health anxieties, socio-economic status, and cultural differences.
“[Other factors include] media reporting of the pandemic and the role of individual difference variables, including enduring vulnerabilities such as:
- Negative affectivity and difficulties regulating emotions;
- Resiliency factors (e.g. problem-focused coping styles and trait optimism;
- Interpersonal factors (e.g. the quality of familial relationships and the strength of social networks).”
“There is a need for integrative research that takes into account the inherent complexities and confluence of a variety of factors that can affect mental health symptoms,” they added.
They also discovered most people experience tension at the beginning of CCP virus restrictions.
“Our findings suggest that stress may be highest during the earlier stages of social restrictions, as people struggle to adjust to the changes,” they said.
Interaction is key
The study recommends those experiencing loneliness should try virtually connecting with loved ones through technology.
“In addition to encouraging people to connect with family and friends online, access to interventions that help people meaningfully redevelop group memberships and social identities may be especially important,” it said.
“At the very least providing moderated forums that help those experiencing loneliness during social restrictions to connect with others may be useful given that contact, even amongst strangers, is important for enhancing wellbeing,” it added.
Researchers suggest electronic communication should also be used more to help deliver primary healthcare services to help those living in isolation.
“Leveraging of digital technologies for the monitoring of symptoms, coupled with the delivery of self directed e-therapies and the provision of telehealth, can offer cost-effective solutions with wide reach and penetrability for addressing population level mental health issues when social restrictions preclude access to in-person mental health support and services,” they said.
“The modelling of linear and non-linear patterns of change may provide critical insights into the timing of public health interventions to address mental health issues within different populations,” they added.
They concluded that CCP virus restrictions could affect the psychological well-being of individuals. People living in isolation can benefit from mental health support services to help better cope with the strain associated with limited social interaction.
The study was carried out per preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses guidelines.
Researchers conducted parallel systematic searches of MEDLINE and PsycINFO for all studies investigating the relationship between social isolation and mental health outcomes published in peer-reviewed journals between March 2020 and March 2021. The research was timed to capture the first full year of the pandemic declared by the World Health Organization.
Key search terms reflected the main concepts included government-imposed social restriction measures in response to the CCP virus and mental health outcomes. After duplicate articles were removed, two reviewers used Covidence software to independently screen titles, abstracts, and full texts of articles identified in the search. Disagreements about inclusion were discussed with the senior reviewer until a consensus was reached.
Statistical analyses were conducted using Comprehensive Meta-Analysis version 3.3.070 from CMA Biostat in Englewood, New Jersey. Five meta-analyses were completed, the first of which estimated social restriction effect size on overall mental health symptoms. The other four meta-analyses estimated social restriction effect size on mental health outcomes for which there were multiple studies, namely depression, anxiety, stress, and loneliness.
Subgroup moderator analyses were conducted when multiple studies were present for each subgroup. These moderator analyses were based on:
- The type of social restriction (low, moderate, or strict),
- Length of exposure to social restrictions (less than two weeks, two to four weeks, or more than a month),
- WHO region classification (Americas, Europe, or Western Pacific),
- Age (under 18, 18–30 years, 31–59 years, 60+ years),
- Whether or not the sample had participants who reported pre-existing physical or mental health vulnerabilities.
Additionally, a “study design” subgroup moderator analysis was conducted to compare cross-sectional, retrospective reporting, and longitudinal studies. All subgroup moderator analyses were completed using random-effects models and z-tests to determine the significance of point estimate differences observed for each subgroup.