After weeks of partial closures, Shanghai now faces full lockdown—in two parts. Each side of the city, which is divided by the Huangpu River, will undergo five days of near-total lockdown; the eastern district of Pudong started Monday, while Puxi’s lockdown begins Friday. Many of its residents have already seen days or weeks of lockdown after cases were detected in their residential compounds, where most urban Chinese live.
Authorities will use the time to conduct mass testing, identifying and isolating COVID-19 cases. Even after this lockdown nominally ends next week, many parts of Shanghai are likely to remain shut down due to detected cases. The limited use of robots to announce safety measures in a few areas made headlines this week, but the majority of the work continues to be done by public health officials working with ubiquitous residents’ committees, which maintain a close watch over their neighbors.
The decision to enter full lockdown, announced Sunday evening, sparked widespread panic-buying in the city, as well as confusion and anger online. Residents also expressed fear about being forced into centralized quarantine, where facilities are overloaded. Many Chinese households have kept food stocks since the winter, when government warnings and fears about the omicron variant prompted shopping sprees. Shanghai’s health care system is stretched thin, with many clinics closed; the death of a nurse from treatable asthma made headlines.
Older Shanghai residents are experiencing particular difficulty coping with the lockdowns. Residential committees are supposed to distribute food and aid, but amid the confusion and suddenness of the lockdown, some older people have been overlooked. A video of an older man struggling with being told to use the popular messaging app WeChat to buy food went viral.
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