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Desperation Ensues as Shanghai Lockdowns Continue

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Shanghai citizen during lockdown | Image by Graeme Kennedy

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Shanghai, China’s primary economic powerhouse, has been under a strict lockdown since late March. Many residents are reporting a lack of space, supplies, food, and care due to the intensive restrictions as China reinforces its zero COVID policy.

Shanghai is a city in Southern China that boasts a population of 25 million. Shanghai authorities have not enforced such an intense lockdown since the onset of the COVID crisis nearly two years ago. According to The New York Times, citizens are enraged at the extensive force of the government and the lack of adequate care.

High-rise apartment buildings, convention centers, and gymnasiums in Shanghai have been transformed into makeshift isolation centers. Citizens of the city have reportedly been forced from their homes to create room for people infected with COVID. Inside the centers, beds are lined in tight rows, privacy, showers, and adequate bathrooms are not available, and only barebones meals are offered.

The New York Times spoke with Leona Cheng, a student in her early 20s from Shanghai, about the conditions.

“The nurses and doctors were so busy that it was hard to get any help,” she said. “The lack of staffing also created dire living conditions.”

Cheng added that the portable restrooms available were so filled with human waste that she cut down her liquid intake to avoid using them as much as possible.

Barriers cover the entrances to many buildings, including the homes of those attempting to make deliveries to needy residents across the city. Tents serve as makeshift shelters for the delivery people, as they have been barred from re-entering their residence for fear of exposure or have had their homes overtaken by health officials.  However, they serve as a direct lifeline for isolated residents who have no other way to obtain food or outside materials.

Because Shanghai officials acted swiftly in implementing the city’s lockdown, it left little time for residents and businesses to prepare. Groceries and supplies are becoming scarce. Reportedly, even wealthy residents are struggling to find goods.

To add to the disorder, residents have reported extreme conduct on behalf of police and officials. According to the New York Times and other news outlets, Chinese citizens have reported children being forced away from parents, a pet corgi being beaten to death because its owner tested positive for COVID, and people dying due to lack of access to proper care. CNN reported that an off-duty nurse died after being turned away from the hospital where she worked.

The Chinese government is going to great lengths to censor information being posted by citizens; however, news outlets such as The New York Times have verified videos of residents in Luoyang Sancun, a middle-class community in Southwestern Shanghai, protesting.

During their protest, they shouted, “We want to eat, we want to work, we want the right to information.”

It remains unclear how long this extensive lockdown will last. Forbes reported Monday that while plans were in the works to lift some of the restrictions, a setback occurred as fifty-eight more people tested positive in an area under total lockdown. The total number of new COVID cases on Monday rose to 7,333.

Beijing is on edge as it attempts to avoid Shanghai-style lockdowns, but cases are rising, and COVID testing is ramping up in the city. So far, the numbers do not seem to be reaching the levels that Shanghai saw before its lockdown was implemented. As of now, Beijing has closed restaurants and some businesses and allowed schools to do remote learning, but the situation is becoming more dire as case numbers increase.

The economic toll of these cities being in lockdown is immense. According to Statista, Shanghai is the largest contributor to China’s GDP, followed closely by Beijing and Shenzhen. Unemployment in the country is at a 21-month high as well. Economic shockwaves will likely continue to be felt even when the isolation orders have ended.

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