Image by Patrick Madrid / Twitter / Futurism

Alarming videos spreading on social media show residents in Shanghai, China, screaming in apparent protest from their balconies and urban high-rise homes.

The ultimate context of the cacophonic videos remains somewhat hazy — remember when people were screaming out their windows in camaraderie during the early days of the pandemic? — but, according to translated dialogue from the clips, it’s likely that they offer a rare peek into growing public dissent against China’s draconian crackdown on its latest COVID-19 flareup.

“Everyone is screaming,” says an unnamed man in one of the clips, according to a professional translation obtained by Futurism. “There weren’t so many people screaming just five minutes ago, and now suddenly, everyone is screaming.”

“Nobody knows what’s going on, how long the situation will continue like this,” he continues. “We need a concrete plan. But we got nothing, you see.”

China is in the midst of its largest COVID outbreak to date, and an in-depth CNN report earlier this week found that for the first time, a feeling of common sacrifice against the virus is starting to be replaced by frustration against an extended lockdown and logistical issues that are causing some — and perhaps many — to go hungry.

Food shortages and disorganization, according to that reporting, mean only meager supplies are being delivered, even though many were told to prepare for only a five-day lockdown.

That seems to align with footage being shared on social media. In a clip that shows a conflict between a crowd and officials dressed in hazmat gear, the only dialogue that could be made out was “starving to death!”

“Please look at us!” someone cries out in another clip. “We are starving to death! We are really starving to death! We have already gone for a long time without eating!”

Yet another video shows a man in Shanghai’s Xuhui District arguing with COVID officials about not being able to leave his home. The resident asks what he’s supposed to eat, and a worker tells him food may be delivered to his apartment door. If it’s delivered downstairs, the worker tells him, he won’t be able to leave his apartment to pick it up.

“None of us wants it this way,” the worker says.

This isn’t the first of China’s extremely strict COVID lockdowns, which have mostly protected the country from the widespread COVID infections that have plagued much of the rest of the world. But this time, in the face of the country’s most serious outbreak yet, it’s possible that public frustration and fatigue could now be boiling over to the point that such strict measures will be more difficult to employ going forward.

The government’s response to the unrest hasn’t inspired immense confidence, either. Clips of talking drones have made their way around the internet, broadcast prerecorded messages to quell unrest.

“During pandemic lockdown periods, please strictly adhere to the metropolitan government’s protective rules,” a drone intoned in one video. “Control your soul’s hunger for freedom, do not open your windows to sing. This act risks for pandemic contamination.”

Footage has also appeared to show residents trying desperately to return home after being discharged from the hospital with no available transportation. In this clip, a crying women is simply lying on a gurney near the street, her husband arguing with hospital workers.

“Someone is dying,” he says. “You are all just sitting there!”

The video of Shanghai residents screaming is particularly striking in countries like the US, where authorities continue to loosen coronavirus recommendations. Just weeks after airlines announced plans to stop requiring masks, many have huge staff shortages.

The footage raises a grim dichotomy. On the one hand, the US never really committed to stamping out the virus, and the result has been nearly a million deaths — surpassing even the total deaths from the HIV crisis — as the country stumbles into another looming COVID wave.

On the other, China has flexed its authoritarian might to crush not just the initial outbreak of the coronavirus but subsequent flareups as well. In total, it’s reported less than 5,000 deaths, and even though some experts are suspicious of those figures, that represents an enormous public health victory compared to countries like the US.

But new reports and videos now raise the question of whether China can maintain that level of control.

“Seven days of silence, stuck at home, can’t step outside our door,” the man says in the video of the people in Shanghai screaming. “Things can’t go on like this. If it continues, things will get real.”

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