Elderly Shanghai woman’s quarantine ordeal sparks outrage

The woman and son later spent hours sitting in a hallway because the quarantine site they were sent to was out of beds, Caixin Global reported, citing a relative

The treatment of a 92-year-old Shanghai woman who was sent to quarantine late at night has caused anger in China, underscoring the frustration that many are feeling under the nation’s strict Covid Zero rules.

Police and local officials had a locksmith force open a door to the apartment occupied by the woman and her son around 2am on Tuesday when no one responded to their knocking, the local government said on an official social media account. They acted because they feared “an accident,” and said the pair “voluntarily went downstairs” so they could leave for an isolation facility.

The woman and son later spent hours sitting in a hallway because the quarantine site they were sent to was out of beds, Caixin Global reported, citing a relative. 

The government said the two were transferred to a quarantine center at 3am on Tuesday and assigned beds and provided with daily necessities. Quarantine staff there also conducted a brief health check-up for them. The government didn’t give full names of the people involved.

The incident was the topic of broad discussion on China’s internet Wednesday, with a hashtag for the government’s statement getting nearly 27 million views. Many people questioned why anyone — let alone an elderly woman — would need to be sent to quarantine late at night. One person described the official explanation as “laughable.”

About two thirds of the city’s 25 million residents remain under a lockdown that started about three weeks ago — and nerves have been frayed by the experience. People have had trouble getting food, medical treatment and information about how the ordeal ends.

Residents of China’s most cosmopolitan city — host to the nation’s biggest stock market and major financial institutions — have clashed with police over isolation centers opening near them, and the government has censored videos of protests that have erupted in residential compounds. The US consulate ordered all of its non-essential staff to leave China during the lockdown, widening a rift between Beijing and Washington.

Shanghai has scrambled to build isolation facilities and makeshift hospitals for hundreds of thousands of people. The city has converted exhibition halls, indoor stadiums and schools into quarantine centers, and upscale hotels have been told to hand over rooms. Facilities were also being built in neighboring Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces to handle as many as 60,000 people from Shanghai.