Brazilian Camila Félix has been locked up, alone with her three dogs, in an apartment in Shanghai, China, for more than 40 days. Until Tuesday (10), she could go down for a few minutes, for a quick walk with the animals in the condominium.
But on Wednesday (11), the security guard at the complex of buildings where she lives announced in the megaphone: “No one can leave the apartments, this building is on red alert for Covid.”
Now, she can only open the door of her house to get emergency supplies sent by the government, such as food and hygiene products, and put the garbage outside.
“The situation is very unpredictable. We don’t know how long it will last. The lockdown started on April 1st and was supposed to last four days, but more than 40 days have passed”, she tells BBC News Brasil.
Every day, residents must be tested for Covid. Camila says she’s been over 50 since the lockdown started. If the person tests positive, they are taken by Chinese authorities to a “quarantine center”.
“The conditions are unsanitary. Thousands of people stay in the same space. They say there is no bathroom to shower, spotlights are on 24 hours a day, and people are waiting for at least 14 days, until the test is negative”, he says. Camila, who has lived in China for eight years and works in the human resources area of an American startup.
But the Brazilian’s biggest fear is not facing the difficult conditions of the quarantine center. “If they come to take me to isolation, what will happen to my dogs? If they stay at home alone, they could die of hunger and thirst.”
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Shanghai has been in lockdown for seven weeks after Covid-19 cases began to rise rapidly. The city, which has 27 million inhabitants, is experiencing the biggest outbreak of coronavirus since January 2020, when the pandemic began.
According to official data, more than 90% of cases are asymptomatic. On May 8, there were 80 people hospitalized in a serious condition and another 415 with severe symptoms, according to the Shanghai Fabu, the city’s official bulletin, which was divided into green, yellow and red zones according to the number of infected.
In total, 536 deaths from Covid were recorded in Shanghai this year. The victims were, on average, 78.9 years old and most had not been vaccinated or had comorbidities.
In some parts of Shanghai, residents are required to stay indoors and food delivery is not permitted. They rely on supplies sent by local authorities.
Even going out to seek medical attention in a hospital is prohibited. Only emergency cases, with prior authorization, can be admitted.
Camila Félix took more than 50 tests for covid in the last month – Photo: BBC
The region where Camila lives is classified as a green zone, which, in theory, would allow residents to move around the neighborhood. But the committees that manage the condominiums can make independent decisions and impose stricter rules. That’s what happened where the Brazilian lives.
“The committee decided that it’s best not to leave the house and operate like a red zone. So, there’s no way I could leave my condo, even if I wanted to buy something,” he says.
“The condominium is managed by a neighborhood committee. And that committee is linked to the Communist Party of China, like everything else in China. So each committee, depending on the situation, makes independent decisions. They have safe conduct to institute the rules that they think it best serves the areas they are managing. They are the authority right now.”
Provisions delivered by the government are collected by security at Camila’s condominium and are disinfected. Afterwards, they are placed at the door of the residents, to prevent them from leaving the house to get food.
The gate that leads to the complex of 140 buildings is guarded day and night by security guards, who prevent unjustified entry and exit of residents.
“My condominium has four main gates that, in normal situations, everyone can come and go. Now, because of the pandemic, only one gate is working and there is a security guard there 24 hours a day controlling the entrance.”
Concern for pets
According to reports, in some parts of Shanghai, neighbors of people with Covid have been taken to quarantine centers even though they have tested negative and are symptom-free.
That’s why, despite not leaving the house, Camila Félix fears being taken, at some point, by the health teams, leaving the dogs behind.
That’s what almost happened to a neighbor of hers, who tested positive and has a cat. The woman was desperate when contacted by the authorities and made an appeal for a neighbor to keep the animal while she was in the quarantine center. But no one wanted to risk going out the door.
“She was desperate in the condominium’s WhatsApp group, but no one accepted to take care of her cat. So I sent her a direct message and said that I accepted to stay with him, because I could isolate the cat in a room. I put myself in her place. “, says Camila Félix.
The neighbor left the cat outside the apartment, and Camila picked up the animal shortly before the woman was taken to the quarantine center.
She wouldn’t be back at the apartment until three weeks later. “When she returned, I put the cat outside her door, and she took it. To this day, I’ve never seen the neighbor in person. But I felt like I needed to help,” she says.
“I’ve had several crying spells thinking about what can happen to my dogs if I get covid.”
Attempt to return to Brazil
Tired of going through so many isolated periods during the covid pandemic, which has lasted two years, and scared by the unpredictability of the lockdown in Shanghai, Camila Félix wants to return to Brazil.
But she doesn’t have a passport, because she handed the document to the Chinese department responsible for renewing her work visa.
She would get her passport back in a week, but the wait is already 50 days. “The visa, in theory, would be ready on April 6, but since then I haven’t had any news. Immigration services have been suspended and they don’t respond to me”, she says.
Camila has bought a ticket to return to Brazil at the end of May, but fears she won’t be able to leave China.
“I need my passport to return. The Brazilian consulate has been helpful, has tried to get information, but even they haven’t gotten any news about my passport.”
“Whether I like it or not, I’m in a foreign country and I can’t criticize the way they do things. I know the efforts of the volunteers. Many are living in the committees, without going home for over a month. But what I can do is fight for my well-being, for the well-being of my animals and help people as I can, so we can get out of this.”