China locks down Shanghai Disneyland and tests 34,000 visitors after single Covid case | China

As fireworks lit up the sky over Shanghai Disney Resort on Sunday, chatter began to spread through the crowds. Qian, a young Chinese woman who’d decided to spend her Halloween at the theme park, saw a Weibo alert from Disney saying the park had closed and rides had stopped. No more guests could enter Disneyland – those already inside, all 34,000 of them, would have to be tested and isolate.The news filtered through the throngs of parkgoers but, as Qian described, caused no panic, despite the worsening outbreak of Delta across 16 Chinese provinces.“The tourists around me started discussing this matter, but they all finished watching the first fireworks in peace,” she posted on Weibo.As they moved towards the exit, the crowd learned no one could leave until all were tested. They were ushered along outdoor trestle tables staffed by PPE-wearing healthworkers for testing, as the second evening fireworks show blasted in the background. The gates were closed and the rail lines shut down.“I never thought that the longest queue in Disneyland would be for a nucleic acid test,” another visitor wryly noted on social media.A child holds Mickey Mouse balloons as visitors receive Covid-19 tests at the Shanghai Disney Resort Photograph: APLate in the night more than 200 buses took people home for two days of self-isolation and further testing. Another 100,000 people who visited the park on the weekend will also be tested.The surreal scenes were prompted by the discovery of one case, a Saturday visitor Shanghai who was later found to be positive. Reports were conflicted on whether she had even gone to Disneyland. Disney’s initial alert had only attributed the closure to a need to “cooperate with the pandemic investigation in other provinces and cities”.Regardless, the park and Disneytown – its retail hub – shut until Wednesday.On Monday, China reported another 54 cases in a stubborn outbreak of Delta which, while dwarfed by numbers around the world, is threatening China’s commitment to remaining free from Covid.So far about 500 people have been diagnosed across at least 16 provinces, initially centred around Inner Mongolia but now mostly in Heilongjiang. Throughout the pandemic authorities have responded swiftly and strongly to outbreaks, with sudden lockdowns, transport restrictions and mass testing drives. But the high transmissibility of the Delta variant has seen a rise in more creative attempts to curb its spread.Communities are largely complying – in Heilongjiang an official bragged of the 35,000 people who rushed to the testing stations, queueing under umbrellas. But tolerance is beginning to wane, especially when it involves so few cases.In Jiangxi authorities turned all traffic lights red to halt movement after a single case was identified – its first in almost two years. The move was reversed after public outcry. In Beijing some residents complained of glitchy health apps recording their location in the wrong place, and leaving them stranded. On Monday Beijing’s health commission asked people to avoid leaving or returning if possible.In Ruili, a small town on the border between China’s Yunnan and Myanmar, repeated lockdowns and waves of outbreaks have driven people away. Local media reported that one baby in the city who had been tested 74 times since September.In late October, someone who claimed to be a Ruili student posted on Weibo that he and his family were unable to return home. Local officials told Chinese media that since 2020 the number of residents had reduced from half a million to 200,000. “Impacted by the epidemic for a long time, many people found life hard to cope with,” one said. The mayor has made an extraordinary plea for help from Beijing.China, Hong Kong and Taiwan are among the last global jurisdictions still clinging to elimination strategies for the virus. For all three it involves the continuation of strict border closures and quarantine systems.Some have begun to question the sustainability of the strategy, as the rest of the world begins reopening and accepting life with the virus, mitigated by high rates of vaccination and less intrusive health measures. Others note that the strategy has worked – all three places are largely Covid free, having seen few of the world’s five million recorded deaths.In Shanghai, Qian praised the response at Disneyland.“One can really believe in Shanghai for ever. The response speed and the measures to deal with the epidemic are really fast and reasonable,” she said. “This Halloween will be unforgettable, a happy, beautiful, and wonderful journey with no dangers. I hope the epidemic gets better soon and everyone is safe and sound.”

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