According to the Financial Times, Sally (pseudonym) is one of the millions of Chinese civil servants. When the industrial city of Wuxi experienced a spike in COVID cases, the 40-year-old worker changed her office job to be a COVID control prevention staff, also known as “Dabai.”
Her job is to carry out Covid tests, enforce lockdowns, and sanitize public spaces.
Sally said, “It’s extremely hot wearing the personal protective equipment for hours. I’ve nearly passed out from the heat.”
Although working in such a scorching summer, she added that she only received $23 daily remuneration for this arduous task.
It’s nearly three years into the COVID pandemic. Hailed as national heroes, many of these Dabais now complain about salary cuts and longer working hours without extra pay.
Local authorities have already suffered significantly due to the growing property crisis in China, which accounts for nearly a third of the country’s GDP.
Bo Zhuang, a Singapore-based analyst at Loomis Sayles, stated, “Fighting COVID is expensive and local governments, especially in lower-tier cities, have run out of money.”
In May, China planned to set up COVID testing booths within a 15-minute walk of residents’ homes in all major cities. However, Beijing later canceled the mandate because local authorities could not cover the costs.
Another COVID staff from Jiangsu, a province north of Shanghai, said her working conditions were “unbearable.”
She said, “None of my bosses have ever bothered to check in on us,” adding, “They’re not treating us like human beings.”
People familiar with the matter said that civil servants in the city of Gaomi, in the eastern Shandong province, are owed two months’ wages.
Despite serving as the frontline of the country in fighting against the COVID pandemic, many Dabais then had to protest against the controlling regime.
On June 15, several online videos show Dabai gathering at the Gonghexin Road Residential District Community gate in the Jing’an District of Shanghai to protest. They took to the streets to demand salaries and to defend their rights.