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Shanghai lockdown: resident on what it’s like inside a Covid quarantine centre - ‘I feel like I have PTSD’

Shanghai has been in lockdown since 5 March, with residents being sent to centres if they test positive for Covid - one has described the reality of the facilities to NationalWorld

A Shanghai resident has told NationalWorld that she feels like she’s in a “horror movie” after being sent to a quarantine camp, with the looming threat of being taken away again.

People in China’s most populated city have been ordered to stay in their flats and compounds as the country pursues a ‘zero-Covid’ strategy for eradicating the virus, despite cases and deaths being far lower than the UK or US.

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However, reports have filtered through of cramped quarantine camps of low hygiene and brutal conditions.

In the centre Chris was in, the bathroom doors had zip-ties instead of locks

‘Every day was just so stressful’

Chris* is a British citizen living in Shanghai who spent eight days in a quarantine centre after being tested for Covid, even though she was negative.

She has recently been released and is at home but worries she will be sent back soon.

“I feel so numb, like I have no emotions,” she said. “I feel like I’ve just flicked a switch. I have cut off my emotions now. I spent eight days in the centre after being tested even though I was negative, I still got sent there.

“I started my 14 day at-home quarantine because I was in close contact with someone positive. But on the 16th day, they said you’re positive, so you’re going to be sent to the centre. It took them 10 days until they got to me but all my follow up tests after that were negative.

“Every day was just so stressful and I had so many breakdowns within those eight days (at the centre). I feel like I have PTSD.

“There was one really severe day. I found this little corner in the centre, which is like a factory floor they repurposed into a hospital, with 200 people. I cried in this corner, because that’s where nobody could see me or bother me. I didn’t want to cry where my bed was because there’s so many people around me that I felt awkward and uncomfortable.”

A wide shot of the area Chris was staying in

Although Chris has been allowed to return home, the threat of the quarantine camp remains.

“So when I finally got home after eight days, I was so relieved to just see my partner,” she says. “I felt like all that stress and weight had gone but they called me yesterday to say your test is abnormal again - they’re not supposed to test me for seven days. So now I’m going to be potentially taken away again, back to the centre.

As Chris was positive for Covid, she was sleeping in cramped condition and thin matress beds

“When I heard that, my whole body just became numb. I’ve already gone through so much stress and anxiety and then to be told, that it’s going to happen all over again, there’s really no words to describe even how to process it all.”

A week after our initial conversation, Chris told me she got tested as a re-positive case, but was allowed to stay home after their partner managed to get through to a Chinese speaker in the Shanghai British embassy who was “helpful”.

‘Almost like being kidnapped’

Despite her predicament, Chris said she received no help from the British embassy.

She said: “The embassy was another problem I had - just their refusal to do anything.

“They wouldn’t help, no matter what I did. I phoned them many times - at the start being polite, nice, friendly, asking questions but with each phone call, I just got more and more angry to the point where my last phone call with them I was just in complete tears, screaming at them.

“I called them when I was on a coach for nine hours having no information of where I’m going, no food, no water, no bathroom.

“I had asked them, I’m negative, why can you not stop them from taking me. They said ‘we can’t stop them from taking you but if you have no food or water or if the facilities are terrible, call us and we’ll do something about it’.”

Meals served in the centres

She said that later the embassy asked her if she had signed up for email alerts and, if she had not, there “wasn’t much other information" they could provide to help her.

Chris explained how terrifying the whole situation was, amplified by the lack of help from her embassy.

“I felt like I was in a kidnapping situation almost because there’s no information on where they’re taking me, there were no other English speakers around me,” she said.

“No food, no water and it was 32 degree temperatures on a coach with no air-con because they couldn’t put it on due to spreading the virus and my embassy just says sign up for email alerts.”

How have other embassy’s reacted? 

Chris said that her French friend in Shanghai sent her photos of the facility he was sent to, which was significantly more comfortable.

“He was sunbathing outside,” she said. “He had an ensuite bathroom. It was very tiny, but that doesn’t matter - he had those facilities. I was given a bucket. None of the sinks had hot water, and some of them barely any water even came out.

“In the first centre I went to there was just a pile of tissues in the corner of the floor, covered in human faeces.

“It’s really disappointing that my embassy can’t or won’t step in to do anything - it’s not that they don’t have power because other countries have helped. So why can’t mine?”

Confusing and inconsistent rules

Adding to the stress for those affected by the draconian lockdown rules in Shanghai is the complexities and seeming inconsistencies of how they are applied.

“There’s no one set rule,” Chris said.

“That’s the problem. In group posts, one person someone knew had tested positive and they got to stay at home because they were a foreigner. They had called CCDC (Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and they said ‘we’ll put you in for home quarantine so you can stay at home’. But then another person had tested positive and they got taken away within a couple of days.

The queue to go home

“When I was in the centre every person I talked to gave me a different explanation on my QR code. One person said it has to turn green before you’re allowed to leave. If it’s not green, you can’t leave. The next day, I asked somebody else who said your code can stay red if it turns green when you get home.

“It also depends on what your community leader says. It depends who you speak to. There’s different rules for each district and different rules for each apartment complex.”