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Shanghai Loosens Some COVID Restrictions, Allowing 4 Million People Out of Their Homes

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 20, 2022
A community worker wearing personal protective equipment disinfects an area before conducting tests for COVID-19 inside a compound of Shanghai’s Pudong district on April 17, 2022. (Image: LIU JIN/AFP via Getty Images)

On Wednesday morning, Shanghai allowed 4 million more people out of their homes as ‘Zero-COVID’ protocols that shut down China’s largest city eased for the first time in over three weeks

A total of almost 12 million people in the city of 26 million will be allowed to go outdoors following the first round of easing last week, health official Wu Ganyu said at a news conference today. Wu claimed the virus was “effectively under control” for the first time in some parts of the city, but warned people to not let their guards down as the outbreak is not yet over.

Under the latest changes, more than 4 million people residing in areas where the pandemic status shifted from “closed” to “controlled” will be allowed to leave, Wu said. He added that some residents are still not allowed to leave their neighborhoods, and large gatherings will remain prohibited.

The Shanghai outbreak is, officially speaking, the worst since the pandemic began in late 2019, with more than half of the 300,000 cases admitted to by the communist regime — a number that is a fraction of the country’s true COVID figures.

READ MORE ON SHANGHAI’S CORONAVIRUS SITUATION:

On April 20, the Chinese regime claimed 19,927 new COVID cases across the country — out of which 2,761 were reportedly symptomatic. Shanghai accounted for 95 percent of the country’s total tally. 

The Shanghai city health agency reported that seven people who had tested positive for the virus died on April 19, but said their deaths were due to cancer, heart disease and other ailments. All but two were over the age of 60.

In its drive to completely eradicate the pandemic from China, health authorities in Shanghai shut down businesses and public transportation, and confined most of its population to their homes since March 28.

During this time, locked down residents reported running out of food as well as having no access to medicine and other essentials. In some cases, people were seen jumping to their deaths from rooftops as the prolonged lockdowns sent them over the edge. Others starved to death as they completely ran out of food and had no way of obtaining more.  

People in Shanghai who test positive but have no symptoms have been ordered into quarantine centers set up in exhibition halls and other public buildings turned into makeshift COVID hospitals, unsure of when they will be allowed to leave. 

Outside of Shanghai, hundreds of millions of Chinese, amounting to a fourth of the country’s 1.4 billion people, are under some degree of lockdown, increasing the downward pressure on an already-struggling Chinese economy.

State TV broadcasts footage of fake supermarket

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that food shortages could continue as the outbreak in Shanghai created a global disruption in the flow of industrial and market goods across China.

During the lockdowns, residents reported dishing out hundreds of dollars in order to obtain fresh food from online purchases, and some reported corrupt neighborhood committees embezzling pandemic funds and supplies for themselves as people starved inside their homes.

In an effort to dispel rumors that people had no access to food and essentials during the lockdowns, Chinese state media CCTV released a broadcast of a supermarket in Shanghai filled with groceries and essentials.

The broadcast, released on April 16, showed the store’s shelves stacked with groceries such as rice, noodles, vegetables, fruits, seafood, etc, and showed a line of people queuing up to purchase the food. After the broadcast came out, netizens immediately took to social media to question where this “supermarket” was located.

A photographer named Fei Diwen revealed that he had shot the first three scenes of that CCTV broadcast inside a supermarket of Shanghai’s Yangpu district on March 31 — right after the lockdown was first announced. He said the scenes were originally shot for a televised program about economics.

“I guess the CCTV has no new material and that’s why they are using old footage. Everyone knows all supermarkets are completely out of food in Shanghai right now,” Fei said.

Desperate residents resort to food bartering

In reality, the situation in certain parts of the city had become so dire that residents began exchanging goods such as batteries and toilet paper for food. A resident said that a bottle of Coca-Cola could be exchanged for three green vegetables, five eggs, two AA batteries, or five rolls of toilet paper.

Another resident said that during the lockdowns, food had become so expensive that he was forced to spend 1,020 yuan (about $160) plus delivery fees in order to buy a few fruits and seasonings.