Schools, gyms, hairdressers, parks, restaurants and bars are shut, millions have been told to work from home, but don’t call it a lockdown.
The Beijing government zealously avoids the term. Instead, the phrase currently in favour is jing mo, “stay silent”. And the city, especially Chaoyang, Beijing’s biggest district, is indeed very quiet, with much fewer cars on the streets. And because everything is shut, life is fairly boring. Getting a PCR test – you need a negative one within the last 48 hours to enter supermarkets, or your district may have been told do to mass testing – is one of the more interesting things to do.
Beijingers themselves are calling this period “dynamic food storage”, a play on the official policy “dynamic COVID zero”, because people keep having to replace the fresh food they’ve bought in case of full lockdown.
Effectively, the situation here is pretty similar to the UK lockdowns, although households are still allowed to mix.
Of course some people are really locked down, shut in their residential compounds with guards at the door, or sent to centralised quarantine if they are COVID positive or a close contact.
Boredom is one thing here in the capital but nothing compared the misery of the lockdown in Shanghai. Again, they don’t call it lockdown, even though people have been kept inside for six weeks now.
Some compounds have been granted a degree of freedom over the weekend, to go onto the streets or into supermarkets.
Others areas have had the gut punch of another official notice, telling them they cannot even order deliveries, instead relying on the government to supply groceries, and must stay inside their rooms for another two to five days.
People are sceptical about that time frame. They were told the initial Shanghai lockdown would last just four days.
Videos circulating on social media continue to show shocking and bizarre scenes. A distressed woman being separated from her child by the da bai, meaning “big whites”, the ubiquitous officials wearing full PPE.
Or workers entering someone’s home and dousing the whole place – sofas, pictures, clothes – in disinfectant, although the government has since said this practice should not be followed.
Is China’s Shanghai lockdown an overreaction?
China’s coronavirus zero policy is actually two policies – it just depends where you are
You wouldn’t want to be in Shanghai right now, or Beijing really, but the rest of the country seems to be doing better. Cases have been dropping and more and more cities have been easing existing lockdown or lockdown-like restrictions.
Authorities will take that as vindication of COVID zero and evidence that the juice is worth the considerable squeeze.