Merely belonging to a WeChat group could result in its members being seen as close or secondary contacts of a COVID-19 patient, according to a Shanghai resident.
An unnamed resident from the city’s Qingpu district claimed that local contact tracers called members of a private WeChat group set up for a karaoke session – popularly known as KTV – as part of the virus tracing process to identify possible coronavirus cases, an article said went viral over the weekend. The author of the article, also a former member of the WeChat group, said that most members have not been to a KTV bar, let alone visited the ones in Putuo District, which has been attributed to the city’s current round of outbreak.
“It looks like COVID-19 has progressed to the point where it is transmissible via the internet,” the article’s author wrote in a WeChat article. “While people sat at home, it felt like COVID came straight from heaven.”
The contact tracer reportedly told WeChat group members that they would be considered either close or secondary contacts depending on whether they visited the KTV bar or not. While close contacts would have to go through seven days of centralized quarantine and three days of home surveillance, secondary contacts would be isolated at home for a week.
It is unclear how the contact tracers had access to the group chat as claimed in the WeChat article. Local officials from the Qingpu District Disease Control and Prevention Center did not respond to Sixth Tone’s request for comment pending publication.
The episode is another example of how local health officials sometimes go to extremes to detect any possible coronavirus infection as part of the country’s “zero-COVID” strategy. Cases have risen again in Shanghai since falling after the two-month lockdown that was lifted in June.
Local authorities said the outbreak’s resurgence was sparked by local broadcasts at Ziyougang karaoke bar in Putuo district. Shanghai on Sunday reported 70 coronavirus cases and authorities have announced two city-wide rounds of testing between Tuesday and Thursday after detecting the first local infection with the highly contagious subvariant Omicron BA.5.
Although China has eased some of its COVID restrictions, including halving inbound quarantine periods, the country still plans to stick to its “zero-COVID” strategy. Authorities aim to stamp out new potential chains of transmission through relentless testing and lockdowns.
However, the advent of BA.5 has brought more challenges and several cities have stepped up demonstrations over the weekend. Lanzhou in northwestern Gansu province announced a week-long lockdown in four major districts from Monday, in addition to Xi’an in northwestern Shaanxi province and Haikou in southern Hainan province, which are already under lockdown amid a surge in cases.
The eastern city of Hangzhou will require residents to take a COVID test every three days, instead of weekly, from Wednesday to take public transport and enter venues. Amid ongoing outbreaks, cities like Hefei and Wuxi in neighboring Anhui and Jiangsu provinces, respectively, have also ordered residents to test themselves regularly or face the consequences.
China reported 352 local COVID-19 cases for Sunday, eight more than the previous day, according to the country’s top health authority. Most cases were found in the eastern provinces of Shandong, Anhui and Shanghai.
Publisher: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: VCG)