Shanghai’s Covid Lockdown Has Caused Food Shortages, Residents Say

Before Guan Zejun’s building was closed on March 27, he bought enough noodles and bread for a week. He told himself that if he ran out, he could always order. After all, this was Shanghai.

Soon after, however, authorities locked down the entire city of 26 million in a bid to contain China’s worst coronavirus outbreak since the pandemic began.

On Friday, Mr. Guan, a 31-year-old programmer, posted a photo on social media platform Weibo of his near-empty box of supplies and pleaded for government help.

He said he last received a grocery delivery from local authorities about a week ago. It contained a dozen eggs, some cabbages and carrots, rapid test kits and traditional Chinese medicine.

“I’m used to feeling hungry now,” Guan said in an interview. “I never expected that in the 21st century, in a big city like Shanghai, I would experience what my grandparents’ generation went through, of not being able to fill my stomach. “

A week into China’s biggest city’s lockdown, many residents like Mr Guan are urgently calling for help to secure food as quarantine rules have closed grocery stores and restaurants. This has made people dependent on government deliveries and online orders, both of which have been unpredictable. Mr. Guan said he joined his neighbors in trying to order lunch boxes in bulk, often without success.

Shanghai reported a daily record of more than 21,000 new cases on Friday, bringing the total since last month to more than 130,000. To fight the outbreak, authorities have introduced severe restrictions on movement, in line with Chinese policy aimed at eliminating local transmission.

The lockdown was hastily announced and many residents did not stock up on supplies beforehand. Online grocery deliveries are still technically available, but stores are selling out early every morning, many locals say. Local authorities have deployed teams of neighborhood workers to distribute food, but residents say deliveries are sporadic or delayed.

At times, the lockdown administration has been chaotic, causing a potential political problem for the government, and many residents have taken to social media in desperation.

The extent of food shortages is unclear and appears to vary by district. Difficulties crossed classes and nationalities in Shanghai, which has a large expatriate population.

Many residents also reported that they had no problem getting food. But officials acknowledged some problems, announcing on Thursday they would lift restrictions on some wholesale markets and delivery people, and recruit more volunteers to speed up food distribution.

Chen Tong, deputy mayor of Shanghai, said at a press briefing on Thursday that food supplies were sufficient but delivery companies faced logistical difficulties due to pandemic policies.

“It has created a phenomenon where it is difficult for basic supplies to reach people’s doorsteps,” Chen said, adding that officials were doing “everything possible” to ensure delivery.