What happened when two new COVID-19 cases were traced back to airport cargo employees at Shanghai Pudong International Airport? Over 17,000 workers were forced to test…immediately. There were also reports and video of passenger revolt. The ordered chaos that ensued is a sight to behold.
Chaos Turns To Order At Shanghai Pudong Airport
I’ll say quite bluntly, I digest all news coming out of China with a grain of salt. By all accounts, China has done a masterful job of containing COVID-19. We do know objectively that life has returned to “normal” in most Chinese cities. Yet I find it incomprehensible, even with enviable testing and contact tracing, that case numbers are so low. But what happened at Shanghai Airport demonstrates a remarkable ability to execute rapid testing, something we can all learn from. And it also shows, if unverified news reports are accurate, that the power of the Chinese state is not limitless.
After the exposure was detected, nearly 18,000 workers from the cargo handling section of Shanghai Airport were ordered to immediately test. Pictures and video circulating online of “100,000 people rushing to leave the airport” before they were “locked in the airport basement for 14 days” appear to be a mischaracterization of what occurred. Per the South China Morning Post, the Hong Kong newspaper of record, only airport cargo workers were tested.
However, multiple reports suggest that authorities initially planed to require testing from every passenger, which led to a sudden “lockdown” followed by mass resistance from travelers:
— ChinaPropertyFocus (@ChinaPropFocus) November 22, 2020
Although resistance is generally futile in China, officials gave up and passengers were allowed to depart without testing. Over 300 flights were cancelled, though.
A video from the Global Times, a state-run propaganda news outlet, shows perfect order:
#Shanghai Pudong Airport started on Sunday night testing all staff after the airport found several cargo handlers and close contacts tested positive for the #coronavirus over the past several days. https://t.co/nQvgzTxYvb pic.twitter.com/hqoA1H8cpk
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) November 22, 2020
18,000 workers were tested throughout the day and already over 11,000 negative resets have come back.
There’s still questions over what that video above was about. But it appears initial plans to test all airport passengers was scaled back after a mass revolt (with no social distancing…). Overall, though, China’s ability to rapidly test so many airport staff is a model to emulate.