Australians stuck in Shanghai’s COVID lockdown beg consular officials to help them flee

Some Australians caught up in Shanghai’s extreme five-week lockdown say the Australian government has done little to help its citizens in distress. 

China’s largest city was put into an increasingly restrictive lockdown in March in an attempt to stamp out an outbreak of Omicron-fuelled COVID-19 cases. 

More than a month later, Shanghai authorities claim cases in the city are falling.

But most of the 25 million residents are still either locked in their apartments, compounds or their workplace with no date announced for release. 

Those who are allowed out of their compounds are barred from travelling beyond their immediate neighbourhood. 

Authorities are also continuing to force COVID-positive residents from their homes and place them in crowded mass quarantine centres with poor conditions, as part of a political directive to get cases down to zero.


Some Australians have been targeted with door knocks late at night from compound managers, health authorities and police in a bid to pressure them into voluntarily leaving home and “camping” at the centres. 

The Australian expats in the city who spoke to the ABC all say they are at breaking point.

They are also questioning whether the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) could be more proactive about advocating for citizens forced from their homes or those seeking to leave the country. 

“If I was arrested, I’d be getting better consular support than if I get thrown into one of these quarantine centres,” said Nick Oettinger, an Australian businessman who has lived in Shanghai for 15 years. 

“Surely there must be a diplomatic protest from Canberra about this.”

Families fear separation at quarantine centres 

One Australian family with young children forced into a mass quarantine centre after testing positive for COVID-19 erected makeshift tents to seek some privacy from hundreds of other patients sharing the room. 

Residents rest at the brightly-lit quarantine facility
In Shanghai, quarantine facilities have been set up for people who tested positive but have few or no symptoms. (AP)

Another family with small children had to wage a two-week-long battle with their compound authorities to prevent them from being separated after multiple positive COVID tests in the household.

Mr Oettinger points to French and British diplomatic letters written to China’s Government in the early weeks of the lockdown requesting that parents and children not be separated in quarantine centres. 

While Australia was among 30 countries represented in France’s letter, he believes the situation on the ground demands a greater response.

Leave a Comment