Shanghai’s tight lockdown to combat a COVID-19 wave is entering its third week, and residents are attempting to get around China’s online censorship to voice their frustrations with the restrictions.
Public discontent among Shanghai locals has been growing as the government tries to improve the distribution of food and essential goods to residents in the locked-down city.
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Eleven thousand delivery personnel are working to keep Shanghai’s 26 million residents fed and supplied, but reports emerging on Twitter show that locals have been struggling to find reliable sources of food.
Delivery services like Meituan, Alibaba’s Freshippo online grocery platform and its Ele.me service are overloaded but still operating. People in the city have been complaining that they must wake up at dawn for a chance to book a grocery delivery; others find that those orders have been sold out in seconds.
As public backlash against the lockdown continues, China’s government has become increasingly defensive and is censoring videos and online complaints coming out of the city.
Some videos (mostly unverified) that have slipped through the cracks reveal residents taking to the streets and banging pots and pans on their balconies, calling out that they are starving to death in their apartments.
China imposed the lockdown as part of its “zero tolerance” policy against COVID-19 for residents east of the Huangpu River on March 28. The rest of the city followed suit on April 1. Only health-care workers, volunteers, delivery people and those with special dispensations can move around in the major metropolitan area.
Widespread testing is underway in the city and 26,087 new cases were announced on Monday — but only 914 of the cases were symptomatic.
Shanghai’s vice-mayor, Chen Tong, told a news conference on Thursday that the city has sufficient supplies of rice and meat to feed its population, but deliveries to people’s doors have been difficult because of the movement restrictions.
He said the city is trying to get more couriers out of locked-down areas and on the streets to deliver supplies, as well as reopen wholesale markets and food stores and crack down on price gouging.
But even when government deliveries of food do make it to residents, some claim that the groceries aren’t enough to feed everyone in their households.
One woman with a vegetable garden has been taking it upon herself to help out her neighbours, according to a video.
Since the start of the lockdown, Shanghai has recruited thousands of additional health workers from other regions. While case numbers remain high, no new deaths have been reported in this latest wave.
Officials say lockdown restrictions will start relaxing soon.
Residents in areas deemed to be “precautionary” with no infections within the last two weeks will be able to move around their district, although gatherings will still be restricted.
Meanwhile, in “controlled” areas, residents can move around in their neighbourhoods, which are smaller than districts, while “locked down” areas will require everyone to stay at home.
— With files from Reuters and the Associated Press
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