A chaotic night unfolded at Shanghai’s international airport after officials suddenly ordered airport-wide COVID-19 testing. The unexpected announcement also turned into a war of words on China’s social media, as netizens debated the government’s actions.
On Nov. 22, Shanghai’s health commission reported two locally-transmitted COVID-19 cases at the city’s Pudong International Airport. The first case involved a 46-year-old man surnamed Cao, who was the co-worker of another infected man surnamed Wu. Wu tested positive for the disease on Nov. 20. The second case involved a 30-year-old woman surnamed Zhang, who was the wife of another airport worker who tested positive for the disease on Nov. 21.
COVID-19 is a disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus. The virus first appeared in Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei Province, in late 2019.
Amid the government’s admittance of new infections, airport authorities set up temporary testing sites at the airport’s parking lot on Sunday evening.
According to videos uploaded to Chinese social media Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, it was chaotic inside the airport. In one video, airport officials in hazmat suits tried to hold back large crowds attempting to leave the airport. In another video, a man collapsed to the ground after being forced to wait for hours in the airport for a test.
A Shanghai resident surnamed Zhang told the Chinese-language Epoch Times that the airport was sealed off on Sunday evening to allow health officials to carry out massive testing.
According to China’s state-run media, many of the flights into the Pudong International Airport were canceled on Sunday evening.
Zhang added that she suspected the local authorities took such a strong measure at the airport because they knew that if they didn’t, the feared local transmission would likely spread beyond the city.
At around 9 a.m. local time on Nov. 23, Chinese authorities in Pudong, the Shanghai district where the airport is located, announced on Weibo that health officials had collected biological samples from over 15,000 airport staff.
The chaotic scenes inside the airport were nowhere to be seen on state media or the website of Shanghai’s health commission. Photos uploaded later showed people in orderly lines waiting to be tested.
On Weibo, a Beijing resident wrote a post calling on Chinese netizens to delete those “bad” photos and videos of what happened at the airport. His call was met with angry responses from other netizens. One questioned the need for deleting these files, saying they showed how chaotic the airport was on Sunday evening and how the local government did a poor job. Another netizen from another Shanghai district Jian’an sarcastically asked if the Beijing resident was part of the state media.
A netizen from Shanghai’s Huangpu district wrote a post on how COVID-19 testing underway at the airport was being done in an orderly fashion. That post also drew angry responses, with one saying how his comment was a “wire copy” from state media, and criticized the citizen-journalist for acting as a mouthpiece for the Chinese authorities.
There are now at least five infection cases at Pudong International Airport since local health officials reported the first case on Nov. 9.
Elsewhere in China
New CCP virus infections have also been reported outside of Shanghai.
On Nov. 21, Tianjin’s health commission reported five locally-transmitted cases. A day earlier, the commission announced that it would spend the next two to three days testing all citizens in the city’s Binhai New Area for the disease.
Binhai New Area has 2.99 million residents as of May 2019, according to the Tianjin government statistics.
According to state media Xinhua, over 2.2 million Binhai residents were tested for the virus as of 7 p.m. local time on Nov. 22, and about 1 million were confirmed to be negative.
On Nov. 20, a staff member at Yilan International Hotel located in Binhai told the Chinese-language Epoch Times that the hospital was not open for bookings, and that the hotel’s rooms were all being used by health officials.
The mass testing was prompted after local health officials reported four infection cases on Nov. 19 at a community located in Dongjiang Port district, which is located in Binhai New Area.
According to state media, classes at the community’s junior high schools, elementary schools, and kindergartens were immediately suspended.
Tianjin’s Teda Hospital, which treated one of the four infected patients, was then sealed off, according to state media.
A restaurant worker, who declined to give her name, confirmed with the Chinese-language Epoch Times that the hospital had been sealed-off since 8 p.m. local time on Nov. 19. The restaurant is directly opposite the hospital.
She added that the restaurant remained open for business but barely had any customers.
Mass testing was also recently done in Keqiao, a district located in Zhejiang Province’s Shaoxing city, after a 35-year-old man who previously tested negative for the virus was confirmed to be infected with the virus.
The man from India arrived with two other family members in Wuhan on Oct. 30, according to Shaoxing officials. After spending two weeks in mandatory quarantine, the three left quarantine after testing negative for the virus.
On Nov. 20, the man tested positive for the virus while in Keqiao. Immediately, health officials ordered mass tests for citizens in the community where the man stayed. The next day, Shaoxing health officials reported on its official Weibo account that 5,210 people were tested, with none infected with the virus.
On Weibo, there were discussions questioning the results of the mass tests, saying that the virus was likely to have spread locally given that the Indian man attended a local party.
Nicole Hao contributed to the report.