Freedom is returning to Shanghai to some degree. But as far as the authorities keep focusing on pandemic control, lives in the city remained mostly constrained. 

More to the challenges now, as reported by Thoughtful Shanghai, are the ways communities impose different requirements for those who wish to leave or return to their residential area.

Don’t come back when you’re out

Ms. Peng, a resident from Malu Town, Jiading District told the news outlet that her husband had been away for work in a car company in Anting Town since the end of March. Her husband was allowed to go home on May 14.

Ms. Peng’s husband is required to obtain a stamped permit from the district prevention and control office. However, when she dialed the office for information, no one answered. She then asked the local committee about contacting and which department should she reach out to, no answer was given either.

According to Peng, Anting Town was no longer restricted. But Malu Town would not accept people from Anting. They required permits from the relevant department in Malu. 

For a village in Baoshan District, the policy was more explicitly stated. That is, if people leave their community, they would not be allowed in until June 1, unless they are frontline medical workers or pandemic personnel.

Don’t go out when you’re back

In some areas in Pudong New Area, residents may be able to leave the neighborhood for a long period of time. But that would come with a compulsory quarantine period as they return.

According to Thoughtful Shanghai, in the Xingyue residential area, quarantine is still required even if citizens tested negative for COVID-19 at the gate of the district and at the same time have a 48h valid testing results. Regardless of the case, Xingyue does not accept residents returning from different communities, businesses, and other places.

Jinse Ya Zhu community accepts those from outside. But same as Xingyue, people are subjected to a short period of mandated quarantine.

The odyssey for those returning from outside of Shanghai

A resident named Sun said her mother came back to Shanghai from Hebei province on May 25. The woman, who was in her 60s, took a taxi ride from Shanghai Hongqiao Station to her home in a village in Baoshan District. She was stopped short by the security guard as she arrived at the gate of the community.

As Sun called the neighborhood committee in the village, they told her that her mother could not enter the area without reporting to Shanghai first. Sun asked about where her mother would live if she cannot go home, and they said she could stay at a hotel.

Spending a long time waiting at the gate of the community, the elderly woman went to the police station for help. But they could do nothing except for comforting the woman. She later decided to come back and sneak into the area. The security guard pursued her and took her to the local committee. There, after they carefully screened her health status and relevant documents, she was finally allowed to re-enter her home.

But the elderly woman was required to stay in self-isolation for five days afterward.

What official says

Pan Shuhong, a representative of the Municipal People’s Congress and the chief lawyer of Shanghai Hengjian Law Firm confirmed that there might be some inconsistencies in the ways different communities in Shanghai conduct pandemic policy and procedures.

Pan said independent neighborhood committees cannot implement pandemic control measures with their own adjustments. They should follow what the law has set out.

He took one example that when the district mandates that the isolation period is three days, the neighborhood committee cannot extend it to five days because of the pressure from pandemic prevention indicators. 

Likewise, China has unsympathetically penalized officials for the outbreak before. On April 21, Chinese government mouthpiece Global Times reported that at least 15 Shanghai officials had been punished for mishandling pandemic control in the battle against Omicron.

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