Mental illness, a parallel epidemic in China’s Covid-19 lockdowns

By Victor Escribano

Shanghai, China, Apr 14 (EFE).- Large-scale lockdowns and tight restrictions in place to keep coronavirus in check are piling severe pressure on Chinese workers and volunteers, to the point that a healthcare official in Shanghai has committed suicide.

Infection rates released by authorities are the highest in two years.

Some 29,411 infections in mainland China were registered in the past 24 hours, 26,391 of them are showing no symptoms; however, Beijing does not count the asymptomatic carriers of the virus in its tally of confirmed cases.

In Shanghai alone, the country’s eastern metropolis that is experiencing its worst outbreak of Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, 27,719 of the infections were recorded. More than 90% of them are asymptomatic.

But with the disease outbreaks emerging and the fear it can spread across the country, it is not only Shanghai that has imposed restrictions and lockdowns.

Areas that have been affected by restrictive measures account for 40% of China’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to Alicia Garcia Herrero, Natixis chief economist for Asia Pacific.

Lockdowns are particularly strict in cities such as Changchun, and Shanghai, where residents of areas with no detected cases are able to go out.

Most of Shanghai’s 25 million inhabitants are still confined, while healthcare workers, security guards and volunteers are working against the clock to curb the spread of the virus.

The pressure on many of them is heavy.

Qian Wenxiong, the director of the information center of Shanghai’s Hongkou District Health Commission, has committed suicide at his office, former editor-in-chief of the Global Times Hu Xijin confirmed.

Hu, one of the most controversial, yet influential, figures in the state-run media landscape, wrote on his official Weibo account that this “tragedy exacerbates the impression that (health) workers are overwhelmed by the pandemic prevention (campaign) in Shanghai.”

Local media have also reported that another woman had taken her own life after she was cyberbullied by some internet users who considered a 200-yuan ($31.4) tip she gave to a man who offered to travel 27 kilometers to deliver food to her old and sick father as insufficient.

The China Digital Times, a California-based independent website, published a transcript of a call between an elderly man locked down in Shanghai and his neighborhood committee, in which he said that he needed to be taken to a hospital after being diagnosed with Covid-19.

“Can’t they do anything to save us [ordinary people]? Is this really what our country has become?” the old said.

The worker replied: “There might come a day when I have to quit because I can’t cope anymore. Why are they doing this? How did Shanghai come to this?”

Many residents in Shanghai are not optimistic, with each new infection registered in a neighborhood and no deadline in sight to end restrictions.

But despite everything, there are also those who continue to try to involve humor and create memes.

A popular meme is currently circulating the internet. It is a parody of a message from the authorities reading: “Dear citizen, do not worry if you start talking to the flowers and plants in your house during the lockdown, it is natural. But as soon as you see those flowers and plants in your house talk to you, immediately call….” EFE


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