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Workers in personal protective equipment (PPE) facilitate a round of Covid-19 testing during a lockdown in Shanghai, China. Photo: Bloomberg

Shanghai lockdown: residents in fear of false-positive Covid-19 tests after couple who tested negative hauled off to quarantine

  • An audio recording of a police officer confronting a couple who tested negative for coronavirus and dragging them off leaves Shanghai in fear
  • The city is in its second week of a full lockdown amid a series of official blunders, with people unable to access medicines, food and water
A recording of a confrontation between a Shanghai couple who tested negative for coronavirus and a police officer who said otherwise has highlighted growing public fears over case misreporting as the city places hundreds of thousands of people into group isolation amid the latest outbreak.

The couple’s latest nucleic acid test results on the government’s official platform were negative, however, they were forcibly taken to a temporary hospital after a police officer arrived at their door and declared they had tested positive without providing any proof, according to a 19-minute audio clip that’s been widely circulated online since Sunday.

Their daughter also was told she had tested positive and taken away, which was later found to be a mistake by the testing organisation, according to the recording.

The couple’s request to undergo another test to confirm the result of their tests was refused.

A medical worker takes a swab sample from a resident for Covid-19 nucleic acid test at a residential community on April 9 in Shanghai, China. Photo: Getty

“You are [positive] if I say so,” they were told by the police officer in the recording of the conversation that has shocked China after it emerged online.

The Shanghai government’s information office said on Monday that the government of Pudong New Area, where the incident occurred, had launched an investigation.

Shanghai has been mass testing its entire population, with both nucleic acid testing and rapid antigen testing, and rushing to build facilities to isolate confirmed cases as the city struggles to curb a coronavirus outbreak driven by the Omicron strain of the virus in what has become China’s worst outbreak since Wuhan more than two years ago.

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On Sunday, it reported 26,087 cases, of which 914 were symptomatic and 25,173 asymptomatic, shattering the single day record for the 10th consecutive day.

People with mild or no symptoms, which account for over 95 per cent of all existing cases, are sent to temporarily built isolation facilities, locally referred to as fangcangs, which translates as “square cabins”, while those with more serious symptoms and young children, pregnant women and elderly people are sent to designated hospitals, Wu Qianyu, an official from the municipal health commission, said at a media conference last week.

But more people are questioning the accuracy of their test results after an increasing number of cases of inconsistency between the results they received on the official app and what disease control workers claimed.


Medical workers hug their families before going to aid Shanghai

Medical workers hug their families before going to aid Shanghai

They’re also increasingly reluctant to go to fangcangs as videos about poor conditions and mismanagement have repeatedly circulated on social media despite China’s internet censors efforts to remove them.

On April 2, the Pudong district government said it was investigating a case where a man complained that his father got a negative nucleic acid test result but pandemic prevention workers insisted it was positive.

Zhu Weiping, an official at the district’s disease control centre, told the man on the phone that miscommunication among different departments had caused confusion over whether some people have been truly infected, according to an audio clip shared by the man on WeChat.

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“If an ambulance is sent to take away your father, ask them for evidence of a positive result. They mostly likely don’t have one,” advised the official, who has been applauded for her frank advice.

Michelle Wang, a woman living in Minhang district, said a friend of hers is also expecting disease control staff to take her away although several rounds of antigen tests suggested she was negative.

“At first she tested positive in a nucleic acid test, but no one came to take her away. After waiting for several days she started doing antigen tests every day, and each time it was negative,” she said.

“It’s funny that after all this, she was finally told she would be taken away to a fangcang, and they refused to give her another nucleic acid test to confirm. She really doesn’t know which result to believe,” said Wang.