‘They are going to starve to death’: Shanghai residents in lockdown with ‘no end in sight’
Shanghai, China’s largest city and financial hub, has been under a total lockdown since April 5 as Covid-19 cases skyrocket. The city’s 26 million inhabitants have been barred from leaving their homes or apartment buildings and are now depending on government supplies and overloaded grocery delivery apps for food. The rapid spread of the virus alongside logistical challenges related to closing down the city have left residents desperate with no end in sight, our Observer says.
Chinese authorities initially planned a phased lockdown in the eastern and western parts of the city, a measure that was extended city-wide indefinitely as cases continue to rise to unseen levels in Shanghai. A record 21,000 positive cases were registered on April 8 as the city ramped up its mass testing program.
Like everyone else I know here in Shanghai, our apartment community is closed because of Covid, with no one allowed in or out— Jared T Nelson (@Jaredtnelson) March 20, 2022
We were all (6,000+) required to test yesterday and again today. Yesterday was batch testing groups of 4 with mouth swabs, today groups of 10 with nose pic.twitter.com/7afRu1kHns
Some people have been completely barred from leaving their homes to gather supplies for more than two weeks. The logistics of locking down the country’s largest city and keeping its residents fed are proving to be difficult. Videos shared on Chinese social networks have shown people in desperation, complaining of lack of food and medical care.
‘They are using a 2020 method for the 2022 virus’
Celine (not her real name) is a journalist in Shanghai who has been in quarantine in her home for two weeks.
There are much, much more cases than at the peak in Wuhan [Editor’s note: during the initial outbreak in 2020]. This is extreme in terms of numbers, but actually, the cases are mainly Omicron. So the gravity of the situation isn’t that bad, but the government wasn’t sure how far it was going to go. They are still abiding by the Zero-Covid policy. They are using a 2020 method for the 2022 virus. And the situation that they’re putting people into is quite serious.
In my compound, there is no virus at all – no positive case. We’re taking tests every two days. No one knows what we’re defending against because there are basically no cases.
As seen on Weibo: Shanghai residents go to their balconies to sing & protest lack of supplies. A drone appears: “Please comply w covid restrictions. Control your soul’s desire for freedom. Do not open the window or sing.” https://t.co/0ZTc8fznaV pic.twitter.com/pAnEGOlBIh— Alice Su (@aliceysu) April 6, 2022
The shops are not open outside and this is a very tech-savvy city: we have a lot of apps where you can buy groceries, but nothing is there. There is almost no food supply anymore online. It’s either a shortage of delivery people or a shortage of food. A lot of people get up at 6am to look for food but they can’t get any. Yesterday, there were two old people in my building who asked me to give them rice because they didn’t have any more at home and they are going to starve to death. So I gave them rice. It’s not that they’re running out of money – it’s that you can’t buy anything.
Grocery delivery services have been overwhelmed by demand, in addition to dealing with a lack of delivery personnel, many of whom are themselves locked down.
Interestingly, the Sam’s Club app today is showing no stock of anything— Jared T Nelson (@Jaredtnelson) April 2, 2022
Previously, they always had items in stock but no delivery times - now no stock and no delivery times pic.twitter.com/7SYqb6ZUp7
Chinese officials have acknowledged that there have also been delays in distributing food, but that they do have enough supplies for the population.
‘If the lockdown continues after five days, I need to figure out a way to get food’
It’s chaos. It’s a very populous city and there are so many people that I don’t think the governmental supply is enough. They said that the government was going to supply food, but we only had one supply about eight days ago. It was just a few vegetables and I personally ran out of them already. I don’t know when they’re going to deliver and there’s no end in sight. We don’t know when we are going to be released.
The food I have is what I hoarded previously. I think I still have about three or four days to go. But if the lockdown continues after five days, I need to figure out a way to get food.
We’re happy with what we can get at this point— Jared T Nelson (@Jaredtnelson) April 1, 2022
SPAM, noodles, and sausages - thanks to the local government! pic.twitter.com/LaKbOoBCB5
Picture of the govt food handout my pregnant friend received last night in Qingpu district of Shanghai. Four days ago she got milk, TCM and a small bag of rice.— Edward Lawrence (@EP_Lawrence) April 8, 2022
Folks in Shanghai: what have you received? What district are you in? How many mouths have you got to feed? pic.twitter.com/pwt8AfFeX7
In the absence of adequate government deliveries, people have turned to community initiatives and the kindness of strangers.
Celine and her compound have banded together to find better ways to order their groceries.
‘A lot of people are under the impression that we are living in a war zone’
We established a WeChat group with everyone in the compound. We ask people what they want to get up to a certain amount of money. We order around 500 euros worth of groceries for one delivery – if you buy a certain amount, they will make one delivery and I think that’s because they have a shortage of delivery workers. This is the only way we can get food.
There’s not enough food so they are trying to make a planned economy because otherwise there are many acts of hoarding. There are lots of homes that hoarded much more than they need. Before the lockdown happened, you would get to the supermarket and they only had potatoes left. Even though we’re not in wartime, a lot of people are under the impression that we are living in a war zone.
While Shanghai residents have taken to the internet to protest their lack of food and supplies, the Chinese government has warned them to “distinguish rumours from facts”. Government censors have also removed videos and articles where people express their discontent over the lockdown. Despite strict internet censorship in China, many people have been attempting to share posts about daily life using VPNs to access blocked websites such as Twitter.