For weeks, Shanghai, China’s most populous city, has been under strict lockdown orders in an effort to control the outbreak of the coronavirus. Its residents of 25 million are trapped in their homes, struggling to feed themselves or get medical help for sick family members. Others were held in makeshift quarantine centers and makeshift hospitals, unsure when they would be allowed to leave.
Lee Moen, 34, was among those confined to their homes. She lives with her parents, in their 70s, in the Putuo District of Shanghai, where she has been booked since March 27, working as a part-time translator and trying to secure enough groceries for their family. For Lee, who grew up in Shanghai, seeing the once crowded financial center – which residents previously thought was a model for balancing COVID-19 prevention measures with normalcy – turned into a ghost town is unsettling.
Empty roads in Shanghai on April 5, during a gradual lockdown due to COVID-19. A worker wearing personal protective equipment rides a bicycle on a street during the COVID-19 lockdown in Shanghai’s Jing’an District on April 8 (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg and Hector Retamal/Getty Images)
Speaking via text and video calls with her boyfriend under lockdown elsewhere in the city, Lee has spent hours discussing whether such drastic measures are necessary, especially when the majority of Shanghai’s cases are patients without severe symptoms. A friend of mine – from Wuhan, where COVID was first detected and 11 million people were subjected to an unprecedented 76-day lockdown He argued in favor of fast and harsh shutdowns.
The prospect of a prolonged shutdown is starting to take an emotional toll. One of the widely shared videos shows residents of a large apartment complex in Bhutto screaming from their balconies. In the video, a passerby can be heard saying, “This whole building is screaming. … What is the root problem? People don’t know how long this situation will continue.”
Under government rules, the nearly 300,000 residents who have tested positive for coronavirus since early March and their close contacts must be sent to mass quarantine centers or to hospitals, depending on the severity of their symptoms. Many residents fear this is more than just catching the virus, unwilling to stay in the makeshift field hospitals that were quickly built, some of which are schools or construction sites for other purposes. They often do not have doctors and nurses or special facilities to sleep or shower.
The videos showed people Fighting over the meager supplies extendedAnd Trying to plug the leaksand, in some cases, an attempt to escape from the centers. On Thursday, residents of an apartment complex in the Zhangjiang high-tech park in Pudong clashed with police after authorities said the complex would be converted into an isolation site. Footage posted online showed police dragging residents away as a woman told them to stop and bystanders yelled, “Why are you beating up old people? Let them go!”
In this photo released by Xinhua, workers walk to the site of a temporary hospital being built at the National Exhibition and Convention Center, in Shanghai, on April 8. Medical workers in protective suits give tours of a makeshift hospital on April 9. A video of Shanghai residents resisting being taken by police in hazardous substance lawsuits circulated on Chinese social media on April 14 (Ding Ting/AP, China Daily/Reuters, UGC/AP)
The rest of the city must stay at home under orders enforced by community workers and police. Drones hover overhead, communicating with the public or sometimes administering medicines to the elderly – adding to the dreaded void of the city when it stops.
Only healthcare workers, delivery drivers and volunteers It can move freely. Robots roaming the streets encourage residents to disinfect their homes, avoid gatherings, and “stay civil”.
The measures, which began in stages in late March before being extended across the city in early April, have given residents and officials little time to prepare. Food shortages are rampant throughout the city. The restrictions have caused bottlenecks in the supply chain and strained neighborhood committees responsible for caring for the beleaguered residents. Many like Lee had to rely entirely on themselves to figure out how to survive.
“We were in limbo, and many, including my parents, felt betrayed. It was painful for them to wake up to the fact that we were left alone,” he told me.
A volunteer wearing personal protective equipment on April 12 checks vegetables for distribution to residents at a compound in Shanghai. A volunteer in Shanghai transports bags of vegetables handed over by the government during a citywide lockdown. Volunteers drop off food supplies in Shanghai on April 9. (Liu Jin/AFP and Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)
The reality does not align with the official narrative about the abundance of food and medical supplies. Wu Ping, 27, works in business development, I noticed an article on WeChat Last week she presented her neighborhood as a success story. Local party propaganda praised the Changfeng Xincun District Committee, where Wu lives, for sending 25,000 packages of food a day to 100,000 residents in her district in western Shanghai.
But in the past two weeks, Wu said, she’s only received one package: a plastic bag containing one carrot, cabbage, french fries, and a few chicken wings that were already rotten.
Residents tried to raise their complaints to officials. When Shanghai Communist Party chief Li Qiang visited residents this week, videos posted on social media showed elderly women Confronting the big official about the lack of food.
Others showed a population Screaming from their windows: “He saved us. We don’t have enough food.”
Wu, like many Shanghainese, has to rely on “group buying,” cooperating with neighbors to get supplies and order in bulk. As the head of this effort for the more than 350 people in her apartment complex, Wu must check with vendors, negotiate prices, and ensure that delivery workers have the proper permits to travel to the complex and drop off merchandise.
“I have to ask every day for connections to buy rice or hazmat suits,” she said. “Why do we have these responsibilities?” She said. Wu shared screenshots of her recent efforts to secure packages of rice purchased a week ago for the group.
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Ashley Chi, a 28-year-old product manager at a tech company in Shanghai, said her neighbors leave supplies out of their doors for each other — she left extra sanitary pads outside her house — and trade them in between. Chi recently replaced about one cup of soy sauce with five liters of bottled water.
“At first, he wanted to pay me, but who needs money now? I need water!” She said.
On Monday, Shanghai officials said that areas that have not reported a case of coronavirus in the past 14 days may start allowing people to leave their compounds. But messages were mixed on the ground: some residents are still being ordered to stay put, while others can only go out for an hour.
Some of those who left their homes were frustrated by what they saw.
Tam, 35, left his apartment complex on Tuesday for the first time in 11 days, only to find all the shops and businesses around him closed. On the way, he saw several dead cats, street pets that neighbors had previously fed while leaving food outside.
“Seeing those animals starving to death, I was depressed,” Tam said, naming him only because of privacy concerns.
Across town, people are expressing frustration with local government’s unpreparedness and its deviation from the once-targeted controls that limit disruption to life. On Thursday, two hashtags, one unrelated to covid, were spammed on the Weibo microblog. angry posts before they are censored. Critics say the government’s insistence on its zero-sum policy is sacrificing ordinary citizens to bolster the decisions of China’s top leaders.
For many, the chaos has cost their families a lot. Fu Dinghua, 55, watched her mother, who suffers from kidney disease, die Monday night after being forced to move from a hospital taken over for COVID-19 patients.
Fu said her mother was forced into an ambulance, sandwiched between equipment and luggage, unable to lie down. The next day, she lost consciousness and could not be revived. She would have turned 91 next Thursday.
“I know she doesn’t have that long left, but for suffering like this, I feel incredibly sorry,” Fu said.