Shanghai expands COVID lockdown as anger grows

Science & Health

As China’s commercial capital continues to implement a massive two-stage COVID lockdown, its 26 million residents are scrambling to adjust to the new curbs.

Illustration for The China Project by Derek Zheng

Shanghai is putting the vast majority of its 26 million residents under COVID lockdown starting on Friday, officials announced over the weekend, despite earlier promises that a full-scale lockdown was untenable.

  • Shanghai reported more than 5,000 local COVID cases and asymptomatic infections on Wednesday, accounting for nearly 70% of the cases across the nation.
  • The city is on its fourth day of a 10-day lockdown broken in two phases, with both the east and then the west areas entering lockdowns of five days each.
  • Patients have died at a large Shanghai elderly-care hospital that is battling a COVID-19 outbreak, amid allegations of unreported deaths at the hospital in recent days.

The economy is hurting

New restrictions are threatening to further damage the city’s economy, adding to global supply chain shortages and stymieing corporate operations.

  • Though ships have been allowed to dock as normal, COVID testing protocols are stifling trucks and cargo barges, disrupting core exports from the world’s busiest container port.
  • At least four out of 16 companies that have halted IPO processes in Shanghai cited the current wave of COVID-19 infections for the decision.
  • German car maker Volkswagen will idle its Shanghai factory on Friday, after giving up trying to maintain operations amid the tightened controls.

Workers are beleaguered as companies scramble to accommodate the expanded quarantine curbs.

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Anger in Shanghai grows over the government’s handling of outbreak

Since Monday, stories of people running short on food and being denied lifesaving medical treatment have gone viral, creating an atmosphere of despair, frustration, and anger.

  • A 77-year-old father with a failing kidney died alone at a hospital after doctors refused to perform dialysis on him due to his COVID-19 infection and delays in treatment caused by unnecessary transfers between different facilities, his son wrote (in Chinese) on Weibo on Tuesday. “It never ever would have occurred to me that my dad would die of some people’s negligence rather than the Omicron variant. This is something we still can’t get over,” he said.
  • An asthma patient died in Shanghai’s Pudong New Area, after ​​ambulance staff refused to provide a medical device that could help him breathe properly, another person posted (in Chinese) on Weibo two days later. “My father’s tragic death is irreversible. I hope that his passing will prompt authorities to improve the system and assure every patient gets timely assistance,” the patient’s daughter wrote. The news was a trending topic on Weibo yesterday, leading to a hashtag that has been viewed more than 50 million times, according to Caixin.
  • Meanwhile, a widely circulated spreadsheet (in Chinese) has become a critical lifeline for people unable to access COVID-unrelated medical resources in the lockdown. Hosted on Tencent Docs and created by a group of university students, the collaborative document — titled “Shanghai Medical Emergency Help” — allows participants to share information about their medical needs, the severity of their situation, and whether treatment has been delivered.

Government promises to ensure sufficient supplies have fallen flat, as tales of food shortages at Shanghai households continued to flourish on social media.

  • A video (in Chinese) of two reporters in Shanghai claiming that they had no trouble buying fresh groceries was soon filled with comments from a number of Shanghai residents, who were quick to point out that the journalists featured in the video were “the lucky ones” and that they received little support from the local government to get food.
  • Under the hashtag “Is it really difficult to buy groceries in Shanghai” #上海买菜到底难不难#, which already has more than 40 million views on Weibo, complaints about lack of food are rampant. “I’m so hungry that I can’t go to bed. I can’t believe this is happening in Shanghai in 2022,” a Weibo user wrote (in Chinese).

Follow our coverage of the Shanghai lockdown.

Nadya Yeh