Shanghai airport Covid-19 scare sparks chaotic mass testing

Workers in protective suits are seen at a makeshift nucleic acid testing site inside carpark at Shanghai Pudong International Airport
Workers in protective suits at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport on Sunday

A string of positive Covid-19 tests at Shanghai’s Pudong airport has sparked mass testing of thousands of people amid reportedly chaotic scenes, authorities requested all cargo staff come for testing on Sunday.

Official pictures released of the testing appear to show an orderly, calm process, however other videos believed to be of the mass testing show officials in hazmat suits corralling large, yelling crowds into a restricted space. Many of the videos have since disappeared, and state media have not reported on any chaos, saying only that more than 16,000 people were tested overnight. According to China’s Global Times newspaper, mass testing began on Sunday afternoon after several cargo workers and close contacts tested positive. Shanghai has reported at least seven local cases since 9 November, mainly involving this group, following five months with no new infections.

Pictures accompanying the newspaper’s report show neat and orderly queues, with lines winding inside the airport’s multi-storey carpark, but posts on Chinese social media platform Weibo paint a different picture, saying the testing turned into chaos when too many workers flooded into the site, pushing it beyond capacity, one video shows workers with face masks being channelled through a carpark by staff in full hazmat suits, with people shouting and pushing. The videos were all taken down by Monday morning. According to Chinese news agency Xinhua, the cargo workers will now be given regular tests and those in high-risk jobs will also be given vaccines. While no Chinese vaccine is fully approved yet, some frontline workers like medical staff have already received a dose.

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