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Shanghai residents feel strain as lockdown extended indefinitely | Coronavirus pandemic News

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Vicky, a young Taiwanese professional who lives in Shanghai, has seen her fair share of restrictions since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There have been lockdowns and restrictions, as well as stories of friends trapped in their offices for 48 hours awaiting mass testing.

Now five days into the latest lockdown, Vicky, who prefers not to share her family name, has found herself doing something entirely unexpected: trying to convince a friend’s rescue dog, Mocha, that it is ok to go to the toilet inside her apartment.

“She is currently staring at me right now with sad puppy eyes like ‘why aren’t we going out?’ and I don’t know how to explain it to her,” Vicky told Al Jazeera by Skype. “So far, I have just tried to communicate to her that one, if you poop on the floor, I won’t be mad at you, and two, if you pee and bathroom it’s fine, I will just hose it down. It’s not a big deal.”

The workaround is just one of many being adopted by Shanghai’s 26 million residents as they find themselves confined to their homes due to a surge in Omicron cases. Under the latest lockdown, they are not allowed to leave their homes for any reason other than to be tested for the virus, and are reliant on city officials for food and basic supplies.

One viral video showed some Shanghai flat dwellers lowering a dog out of the window in a harness to mixed results, while another showed a group of foreigners on a rooftop trying to get the most out of Shanghai’s spring sunshine.

 

Vicky's cat lying on the top of the sofa gives a disparaging look at Mocha, a fluffy pale brown dog, who's sitting on a blanket on the sofa
Vicky is locked down in her one-bedroom apartment with her cats and Mocha, the dog of friends who recently tested positive for COVID-19 [Courtesy of Vicky]

Twitter posts from Shanghai residents shared via VPN – necessary to get around China’s ban on Twitter – document the empty streets, hazmat-suited workers, mass testing, and the sometimes-questionable government food deliveries that have become part of daily life.

Shanghai reported 311 new symptomatic cases and more than 16,000 asymptomatic infections on April 5, the local government announced on Wednesday, with both measures higher than the day before. The wave has been described as China’s most severe since COVID-19 first broke out in Wuhan at the end of 2019. China’s government says it has also dispatched 38,000 healthcare workers from across the country to assist in a mass effort to test the entire population, according to the state-run news agency Xinhua. A further 2,000 military medics have also been sent in to assist.

Originally planned as a “staggered lockdown” to keep China’s most important commercial and financial city semi-functioning, Shanghai’s lockdown has been extended until an unknown date as government officials review city-wide test results, according to state media. Lockdown measures were originally supposed to have ended in the early hours of April 5.

‘Wildly optimistic’

Residents like Vicky who live in western Shanghai have only been stuck at home since April 1, but those in the city’s east have been living under lockdown since March 28. Vicky told Al Jazeera that she has about “three days” left of food but blames herself. Like many young Taiwanese, Vicky does not cook and says she even made the purposeful decision to not buy pots and pans when she moved into her apartment.

Ahead of lockdown, she stocked up on instant noodles, fruit, and multivitamins to supplement some canned food that she had but now admits that was “wildly optimistic”.

 

 

 

Vicky’s neighbourhood committee recently dropped off a “huge” bag of vegetables, she says, but she is not quite sure how she will prepare them. “If I get really desperate, I can probably chop the cucumbers to make a salad,” she said. Microwaving, she added, could be another option if things get dire.

While Vicky has been able to take lockdown in stride, she remains conscious of the fact that as a resident of the upscale Jing’An district, she can work from home, giving her an advantage over residents and undocumented workers living in other parts of the city.

“I’m pretty lucky. I have a nice one-bedroom apartment in a downtown area,” she said. “You wouldn’t think your neighbourhood would matter very much in lockdowns, but it does, because if you’re in a nicer neighbourhood, you get better communication, you get better resources. I got my city-gifted free vegetables before everyone else.”

Still, she has her worries.

Mocha, the rescue dog, belongs to friends who tested positive for COVID-19 – they had agreed they would look after each other’s pets if they were sent to quarantine, as everyone who tests positive is required to do.

People deliver packages of food and essentials to a neighbourhood sealed off behind high yellow temporary walls
People in Shanghai are now under an indefinite lockdown after city authorities first sealed off neighbourhoods in its east and west [Alex Plavevski/EPA]

Chinese internet, however, has terrifying stories of health workers killing the pets of patients sent into quarantine after testing positive for the coronavirus. Early lockdowns in China in 2020 were also accompanied by stories of neighbours breaking into each other’s apartments to rescue pets whose owners were suddenly stranded elsewhere or whisked away to quarantine.

The nerves of other Shanghai residents are also fraying, Vicky says, as China’s government perseveres with its tough “Covid Zero” approach.

COVID ‘horror’ stories

In 2020, many residents were happy to follow the rules and remain vigilant, but now Vicky says she sees a great deal of complaining and the sharing of clickbait “horror stories”.

There is also anger about the separation of children and parents if one or the other tests positive. A petition has recently made the rounds on WeChat Moments calling for asymptomatic patients to be allowed to isolate at home, rather than face a government quarantine centre. One foreign couple broke the Great Firewall that keeps China isolated from the rest of the world to tweet about their experience at one such centre, giving it a low grade due to its communal rooms and – temporarily – broken toilets.

For Vicky, there’s no easy answer to the debate over lockdown.

Her father lived with a compromised immune system before passing away several years ago, so she understands the need to protect the most vulnerable people. The unknown question, though, is how far the rules should go.

“I’m very torn. I don’t understand [why] people have no compassion for [immune compromised] residents, but I also don’t understand people enforcing the rules to the point where they kind of ignore basic human needs and well-being,” she said.

For now, however, she said she is prepared to break out an emergency stash of Lego or maybe try one of her gym’s 50 yuan ($7.86) livestreamed classes as she awaits another food delivery.

She has also made plans with friends to take turns reading Alice in Wonderland to each other over a three-hour marathon video chat session.

“I think mentally it will be difficult, but we are two years into the pandemic, which means everyone’s quite equipped at setting up online events,” she said, adding that her set-up was just fine for now. “It’ll be ok.”





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Germany school shooting injures one, suspect arrested | Crime News

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The shooting in a secondary school in Bremerhaven injured one person, who is not a pupil, police say.

Police in Germany’s northern city of Bremerhaven have arrested a suspected attacker after a shooting in a school injured one person.

The incident happened on Thursday at the Lloyd Gymnasium, a secondary school in the centre of Bremerhaven, local police said in a statement.

“The armed person has been arrested and is in police custody,” they said, adding the injured person, who has been taken to hospital, was not a pupil.

“Students are in their classrooms with their teachers. The police have the situation on the ground under control,” the statement said.

German paper Bild said the injured person was a woman.

It also reported that a second suspect appeared to be on the run. It earlier reported they were armed with a crossbow.

Police said they were ascertaining whether more than one person was involved.

School shootings are relatively rare in Germany, a country with some of the strictest gun laws in Europe. But a recent spate has rattled the population.

Bremerhaven police said on Twitter that a large deployment was under way in the city centre and asked residents to avoid the Mayor-Martin-Donandt square and surrounding streets, in the vicinity of the Lloyd secondary school.

Previous incidents

Last week, investigators in Germany’s city of Essen said they foiled a school bomb assault, as they arrested a 16-year-old who is suspected to have been planning a “Nazi terror attack”.

Police in Essen stormed the teen’s room overnight, taking him into custody and uncovering 16 “pipe bombs”, as well as anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim material.

In January, an 18-year-old student opened fire in a lecture hall at Heidelberg University in southwestern Germany, killing a young woman and injuring three others before fleeing the scene and turning the weapon on himself.

In 2009, a former pupil killed nine students, three teachers and three passersby in a school shooting at Winnenden, in the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. The attacker then killed himself.

In 2002, a 19-year-old former student, apparently in revenge for having been expelled, shot dead 16 people, including 12 teachers and two students, at a school in the central German city of Erfurt. He then killed himself.

The Winnenden and Erfurt massacres were carried out with legal weapons and spurred Germany to tighten gun laws.

The country currently requires anyone below 25 to pass a psychiatric exam before applying for a gun licence.



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How much do Australian voters care about climate change? | TV Shows

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On Thursday, May 19 at 19:30GMT:
More than 17.2 million Australians are set to vote during this week’s elections – and for the first time, climate change could shape the outcome in a major way.

Massive deadly bushfires in 2019 and destructive flooding in 2021 have changed many Australians’ outlook on climate action. Polls show an increasing number of citizens believe that global warming “is a serious and pressing problem” and that “we should begin taking steps now, even if this involves significant costs.”

Despite this growing support for stronger climate policy, neither major party has pledged ambitious reform. Both Liberal Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and opposition leader Anthony Albanese support a net zero carbons emissions policy by 2050, which analysts say isn’t bold enough. And though 29 percent of Australians cite climate change as their most important issue, most candidates are not talking about it, for fear of alienating voters in coal mining towns.

That’s one big reason why so-called “teal independent” candidates are gaining traction around the nation. This group of nearly two dozen, mostly female candidates are running on an anti-corruption, pro-climate action platform. Political experts say that if a major party fails to secure a majority in Parliament, these independents could tip the balance of power after negotiating more climate-friendly policy outcomes.

Other issues at stake in this year’s elections include the soaring cost of living, government corruption and tackling gender and racial inequality.

In this episode of The Stream, we’ll talk about the major issues sending Australians to the polls, and what it could mean for the country’s climate policy. Join the conversation.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:
Kishor Napier-Raman, @kishor_nr
Federal Politics Reporter, Crikey

Intifar Chowdhury, @intifar2210
Associate Lecturer & Youth Researcher, Australia National University (ANU)

Kate Crowley, @Kate__Crowley
Associate Professor, University of Tasmania





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Sri Lankans honour Tamil victims of civil war after 13 years | Tamils News

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Sri Lankan protesters have lit flames and offered prayers remembering thousands – including ethnic Tamil civilians – killed in the final stages of the country’s decades-long civil war.

It was the first-ever event in the island nation where mostly majority ethnic Sinhalese openly memorialised the minority group.

Protesters gathered outside the president’s office in the main city of Colombo on Wednesday, floated flowers in the nearby sea and prayed for all those who died in the 26-year civil war, including Tamil civilians, Tamil rebels and government soldiers.

The head of the separatist Tamil Tiger movement, Velupillai Prabhakaran, was shot dead by security forces on May 18, 2009, bringing a formal end to the bloody ethnic war.

‘Highly welcome’

“This is highly symbolic and very important for Tamils,” said legislator Dharmalingam Sithadthan, a parliamentarian from the northern Tamil heartland of Jaffna.

“In previous years, there were private memorials held in secret, but this public event is highly welcome.”

A Christian nun sings hymns as activists observe a minute silence in remembrance of victims of Sri Lanka's civil war.
A Christian nun sings hymns as activists observe a minute silence in remembrance of victims of Sri Lanka’s civil war at the ongoing anti-government protest site in Colombo [Eranga Jayawardena/AP]

Clergy from Buddhist, Hindu and Christian communities offered prayers in Colombo and lit a clay lamp for those who perished in the civil war.

“I am a Sinhalese by birth. Today we held a memorial for all those who were killed 13 years ago, Sinhala, Muslim, Hindu and everybody as a result of state terrorism and terrorism by non-state groups,” said Sumeera Gunasekara, a social media activist who participated in the event.

“There are still those who are grieving because of these events and as a Sinhalese I have a right to share in their grief, because I believe in the religion of humanity more than any other.”

Actress Kaushalya Fernando said she came to remember the victims of a war created and mishandled by politicians.

“The significance of this place is that we are not here as different ethnic groups but as Sri Lankans.”

The protesters also shared rice porridge, the only food the people could have in the final stages of the fighting because of the heavy blockade of supplies.

The country’s main Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), said the commemoration showed the majority Sinhalese were willing to support reconciliation after decades of ethnic war.

“This gives us a lot of hope and I hope that Tamil people will also reciprocate,” said TNA spokesman M A Sumanthiran.

“There may be pitfalls along the way, but this is a very good start.”

Human rights activists observe a minute of silence in remembrance of victims of Sri Lanka's civil war.
Human rights activists observe a minute of silence in remembrance of victims of Sri Lanka’s civil war at the ongoing anti-government protest site in Colombo [Eranga Jayawardena/AP]

The civil war killed 100,000 people, according to the United Nations estimates. The actual number is believed to be much higher. A report from a UN panel of experts said at least 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final months of the fighting alone.

Since Sri Lankan troops defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009, Sri Lankan authorities had widely prohibited Tamils from publicly remembering their family members and have denied allegations that Tamil civilians were killed.

Human rights groups have since accused the country’s military of killing civilians towards the end of the war, in which the rebels fought for a separate state for the Tamil minority.

Sinhalese, mostly Buddhist, make up nearly 75 percent of Sri Lanka’s 22 million people. Tamils, mostly Hindu, represent 15 percent of the population.

UK Tamils seek justice at London vigil

Tamils who resettled in the United Kingdom after fleeing the Sri Lankan civil war also held a vigil in London on Wednesday, with some likening the island nation’s current economic crisis to the conditions they faced during the decades-long conflict.

The gathering of Tamils seeking justice for those from their community who were killed in the South Asian country during the war, coincided with Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948 that has forced out its prime minister.

Sri Lanka vigil in London, UK
People attend a demonstration to remember those who died in the Sri Lankan civil war on the 13th anniversary of its end, in London, UK, May 18, 2022  [REUTERS/Muvija M]

“The current crisis in Colombo reminds me of our struggles during the war. Shortage of fuel, food, medicine – the Tamil-dominated parts of Sri Lanka faced the same issues then as what the entire nation is facing today,” said Thanikai, 42, who came to the UK eight years ago.

“We need justice for all the people who were killed.”

The UN has accused both sides of war crimes and has been given a mandate to collect evidence. The UN has also warned the failure of Sri Lanka to address past violations has significantly heightened the risk of human rights violations being repeated.

“My parents and friends are still in Sri Lanka but I have been too scared to go back,” said Elilarasi Manoharan, who attended the peaceful demonstration in London’s Trafalgar Square to mark the 13th anniversary of the end of the war.

“But now with the economic crisis and the changes we are seeing, maybe if the Sri Lankan system changes it will open up doors for us to be able to visit our loved ones.”

Sri Lankans have been protesting for more than a month, demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and holding him responsible for the country’s worst economic crisis in recent memory.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa played a key role as a top defence strategist to his brother, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is credited with leading a military campaign to defeat the rebels.

The two leaders were hailed as heroes by the Sinhalese but allegations of mishandling the economy and corruption have led to their fall from grace.

Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as prime minister last week amid violent protests, and Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been staying in his fortified residence for more than a month. He has been forced to take a backseat, having appointed a new prime minister to handle the economy.

Sri Lanka, near bankruptcy, has suspended up to $7bn of foreign loan payments due to be repaid this year because of a foreign currency crisis. The country must repay $25bn as foreign debt by 2026 out of a total of $51bn.

It has led to limited imports with no petrol in filling stations. Other fuel, cooking gas, medicine and foods are in short supply, forcing people to stay in long lines to buy the limited stocks.



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