A Shanghai resident has told NationalWorld that the situation in the city is “apocalyptic” as brutal lockdown restrictions have left people struggling to gain access to food, medicine and essential services.
Many people in China’s largest city have been ordered to stay in their flats and compounds, as the country attempts to tackle the surging number of Covid infections.
Authorities in Shanghai, which is home to 26 million people, have said that they will start easing lockdown restrictions in some areas from Monday (11 April) despite a record number of cases.
With images circulating of unrest in the city and many people relying on infrequent services for their daily essentials, we take a look at what exactly is happening in Shanghai.
When did the Shanghai lockdown begin?
The mega-city began staggering 48-hour lockdowns across housing complexes, known as compounds, from 5 March 2022 to tackle rising Covid cases.
Ryan*, a resident living east of the Huangpu River, told NationalWorld that the initial 48-hour lockdown on his building kept being extended.
He said: “I was in lockdown whilst everyone else was still at work. My building got locked down on 5 March and it was meant to be just a 48-hour lockdown but it kept on getting extended - which wasn’t too suspicious.
“But by Friday, when everyone at work was asked to do a mass testing, it was apparent that this extension was going to go on for a long time.”
Ryan lives in a hotel and was in lockdown with many people from all over China.
After a week, many of those hotel guests were given passes to quarantine in their hometowns.
However, Ryan was asked to stay and move onto the 15th floor of the hotel - without being allowed to leave the building.
Doctors and nurses have been drafted in at the hotel to help with the pandemic - allowing Ryan a bit more liberty so that he can “go down to the shops for a pack of cigarettes”.
But for those in compounds, it’s a different story.
Zach*, who also lives east of the Huangpu River, told NationalWorld: “So far my community has been locked down for 23 days, and we have 25 cases in the community.
“At the start, it was fine, I could go outside at random times for two hours to go buy things but as the cases started to rise in Shanghai, my side of the community got blocked off.
“The side entrance is completely boarded off.
“There are benches blocking the way, it looks quite apocalyptic as if they’re trying to stop zombies or something.
“The main entrance is blocked by barriers. It’s quite intimidating when I first saw it. My building is now closed, so I can’t leave to go outside at all. There’s like a slight small footpath that I can stand on. That’s it.”
Why are there food shortages in Shanghai?
Food delivery is a constant source of stress for people living in Shanghai.
Residents locked inside compounds are relying on delivery drivers to bring them food.
However, deliveries can be infrequent and unpredictable due to the high demand.
Michelle*, living east of the river in a separate compound, told NationalWorld: “I started to see a limited supply, but I was relaxed because I got (my orders) so early. But I started to see people panic buying.
“I had a meeting with work, and it said ‘all groceries are suspended’ and I was so scared because that was the day after I found out our lockdown had been extended by two weeks, and supermarkets had started to close down.
“We ended up eating one or two meals a day, as we only prepared for 48 hours initially. We weren’t allowed to go out and buy anything, the hunger mentally was getting harder and harder.
“Then we’ve had some government packages and they started to tide us through, like vegetables, spam, noodles etc”.
The situation has led to extortionate prices with Michelle paying close to £78 for fruit, sugar and some bread.
However, the lack of food has also led to people blaming one another over the orders.
Michelle said: “There’s been a lot of shame around eating as food deliveries have been questioned whether they are necessary - it would just be basics and essentials. But when there’s a new case in our compound, everyone’s pointing the blame saying it’s because you were greedy and it’s because you ordered food.”
The food scarcity has also led to some neighbours stealing.
Michelle added: “Group chats have recently said they see the elderly running out of their buildings and stealing food.
“My friend sent me some onions and some other fruit the other day, and it got stolen straight away, but you can’t be upset as we’re young and we can network and they might not be able to. But it’s a real gamble to order food.”
What are the quarantine camps?
When people test positive for Covid in Shanghai, what happens next can be terrifying.
Zach said: “I haven’t been personally but there is a lot of firsthand footage. But you get taken by bus from your community and are escorted out. They escort you out or take you to a bus depending on where you live, and you go to a certain centre.
“When you arrive you have to register in your IDs. The rooms themselves are around 1000 people in just one huge room separated into cubicles of two people per cubicle.
“There’s no shower facilities. You wash in a sink with a towel. The hygiene is terrible. We’re more scared of getting Covid because we’d have to go there than actually the effects of the virus itself.”
Michelle added. “There’s nothing you can do. We know of people who’ve been in some kind of central quarantine for like three months. And apparently, they aren’t tested very often, so they may not be leaving as soon as they can.
“A lot of fights break out, a lot of kind of like stampedes. It’s terrifying to watch.”
Many people are suffering from a lack of emergency services in the city, with many departments overrun.
Some appointments are also being cancelled, with people only allowed into hospitals with a negative Covid test within 48 hours.
Recounting an experience in her friend’s compound, Michelle said: “For four days, people were calling the ambulance for someone.
“She had an antigen test, but they don’t count that, and then she had her PCR test - they were waiting on the results.
“They told her on Saturday if you get your results by tomorrow morning, call again, but she passed away on Saturday night - but no one wants to report these situations.”
* Ryan, Zach and Michelle are not the interviewees’ real names, all three asked NationalWorld not to publish their real identities