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In its 3rd week in lockdown, Shanghai reported 23,000 new COVID cases today


The city of Shanghai is approaching the end of its third week of a near-total lockdown to fight the pandemic. And as the number of new COVID cases keeps rising, so does the frustration of many in this city of more than 25 million people. NPR's John Ruwitch has more.

JOHN RUWITCH, BYLINE: On Friday, Shanghai reported 23,000 new cases, which was down a little from the day before. But there's no end in sight to the lockdown policy, and the city is expecting more cases. It's converted schools, exhibition halls and even some residential buildings into emergency quarantine centers.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Shouting in non-English language).

RUWITCH: In a township called Zhangjiang, residents took to the streets this week to protest the requisition of apartments by the government.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Shouting in non-English language).

RUWITCH: Men in white hazmat suits with the word police written on the back can be seen dragging away two protesters. One woman screams, the police are hitting people. Others are seen kneeling in supplication before them. The town put out a statement promising two months' rent as compensation, but video of the scuffle spread far and wide on Chinese social media. So have other recordings, like this one.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Non-English language spoken).

RUWITCH: In it, a couple can be heard pleading with police who have come to take them to a central quarantine center, but they say there's been a mistake and that they, in fact, tested negative. Recordings like this are hard to verify, and many have been scrubbed from the internet, but they reflect real fears and frustrations and are a problem for the government.

VICTOR SHIH: Despite all the censorship, all of China can see signs of governance failure in Shanghai.

RUWITCH: Victor Shih is an expert on Chinese politics at the University of California, San Diego. He says surveys had shown an uptick in confidence in the government after it got the pandemic under control following the initial outbreak.

SHIH: What is happening in Shanghai - and, of course, we don't have access to survey data at this point - I think certainly will have an impact on this previously very high trust and belief in the government's competence.

RUWITCH: This is all happening in what many consider China's best-run and most cosmopolitan city, but it's not alone. The Japanese bank Nomura estimates that 373 million people across dozens of Chinese cities are living under some kind of lockdown. That's more than the populations of the U.S. and Canada combined, and China's government seems unlikely to change tack anytime soon.

John Ruwitch, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

John Ruwitch is a correspondent with NPR's international desk. He covers Chinese affairs.