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Locked Down Shanghai Residents: ‘We Are at our Breaking Point’

A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights' related issues, politics, tech and society.
Published: April 19, 2022
A health worker (C) wearing personal protective equipment conducts a swab test for COVID-19 on a resident inside a compound of Shanghai’s Pudong district on April 19, 2022. (Image: LIU JIN/AFP via Getty Images)

While most of the world is learning to co-exist with COVID-19, China’s largest and most affluent city is still combating a relentless new surge of the virus. Shanghai’s 26 million residents have been under a citywide lockdown for over two weeks, with rapidly dwindling supplies of food and essentials reaching dangerous levels. 

Since the outbreak began in mid-March, some districts in Shanghai have been locked down for over a month. Now an increasing number of residents have taken to social media to show the desperate conditions they are in, as some completely run out of food and are unable to procure more.  

As the city entered its third week of lockdown, authorities recorded 22,248 new cases on April 18 — out of which 2,417 were reportedly symptomatic. Since the beginning of April, Shanghai has been reporting over 20,000 new infections everyday.

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The following conversations were obtained by NTD Television on April 19. In an effort to protect the interviewees from harassment or persecution by the communist regime for speaking out against public policy, a voice changer has been used to conceal their identities. 

Zhao Xin, a resident of Shanghai’s Pudong district said, “Everyone has a limit to their tolerance. If you (the authorities) are going to lock people up like animals for several more months, just wait and see if the people will let you continue doing so.”

“We are at our breaking point!” Zhao said. 

Embezzling pandemic relief funds

As locked down residents ran out of food, a netizen revealed on social media that the head of a neighborhood committee in one of Shanghai’s districts had embezzled pandemic relief funds and supplies. 

In a video, residents can be seen arguing with the committee head, who can be heard openly telling them that as the head of the district, she had a “special right to keep the supplies as she saw fit, and accept kickbacks.” 

The resident filming the video can be heard saying, “I am telling you, [these people] are making money from national calamities. It has affected each and every single one of us.” 

Mr. Ni, another locked down resident said, “I read in WeChat (a popular social media and mobile payment app) that people starved to death while officials embezzled money and supplies and kept it for themselves.”

Chaos and dysfunction abound 

In its drive to completely eradicate the pandemic from China, the Chinese Communist Party’s “Zero-COVID” measures have incurred tremendous losses to the national economy and have revealed a wide array of chaos and dysfunction within its governmental bodies. 

Several residents have revealed that pandemic officials in China have utilized the chaotic situation in Shanghai to “transport supplies under the guise of epidemic prevention.” People have reported shortages and increased difficulty in buying food and medicine, and soaring prices for online purchases have triggered panic buying throughout the city. 

Mr. Chen, a logistics operator in Shanghai said that it was nearly impossible to drive into Shanghai as the entire city remains locked down, “You can’t come into Shanghai without a pass. And you can’t go back if you are allowed in. There are several different types of passes.”

“You have to go through at least three or four departments to get one and it’s an extremely difficult process,” Chen said. 

Forced into makeshift hospitals 

As COVID numbers continue rising, health authorities in Shanghai have forced those who test positive into makeshift quarantine centers and temporary hospitals

Netizens inside these facilities have revealed on social media the horrible conditions they are kept in, unsure of when they will be allowed to leave. Videos and pictures show dozens of people crammed into small rooms with insufficient beds. In some cases, people can be seen sleeping on cardboard boxes on the floor, or on reclining chairs.

Some quarantined residents also reported that some of the facilities had leaking roofs that would completely cut electricity and water, rendering them unable to shower or even use the bathrooms. Others reported a shortage of washing facilities, which were unable to meet the demands of the patients on-site.

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Authorities are under pressure from Beijing to speed up transfers of positive cases and their close contacts to these quarantine centers, fueling anger and frustration in communities about the draconian measures causing more damage than the virus itself. 

“By conducting multiple, consecutive rounds of PCR testing, we will be able to dynamically detect positive cases as early as possible, as this will help us to reach ‘Zero-COVID’ at community level more quickly,” city health official Hu Xiaobo said on April 18.

Reuters also reported that Shanghai aims to stop the spread of COVID outside quarantined areas by Wednesday (April 20). Authorities said the target marked a turning point when achieved by other locked-down Chinese cities, allowing them to ease restrictions. 

Locked down resident Zhao Xin said that she wasn’t sure whether the virus or the government’s heavy-handed measures were killing more people. “More people will die from jumping off rooftops as they reach their breaking point,” she said.