Shanghai residents voiced growing frustration on Friday at confusion over a week of snap COVID-19 lockdowns, taking to social media to complain about food shortages and bewildering stay-at-home orders.
After initially vowing they would avoid a city-wide lockdown, officials changed tack this week and announced a phased shutdown which divided China’s financial center in two so authorities can test its 25 million residents.
A four-day lockdown of the Pudong area began on Monday, followed by stay-at-home orders for the densely populated Puxi zone which was meant to start on Friday.
But many Puxi neighborhoods were suddenly ordered inside early on Thursday, while much of Pudong was still closed on Friday, angering residents on both sides.
“This is de facto city-wide lockdown,” one Weibo user said. “Many Pudong streets and compounds are still in lockdown, few are lifted.”
Authorities late Thursday published a bewildering “grid management” plan for reopening, which would keep all residential compounds where a positive test is found closed, as well as the “cells” next to them.
The restrictions have led to panic buying at shops as well as a dire shortage of delivery drivers to get food to the millions now trapped at home.
“Is this continuing lockdown aiming to starve us?” another poster on Weibo said, calling government promises so far “window dressing”.
Residents of some compounds have skirted restrictions by taking deliveries attached to ropes lowered to the ground, according to AFP reporters.
As patience starts to fray in Shanghai among a public who have broadly acquiesced with virus controls for two years, leading city official Ma Chunlei on Thursday made a rare admission of failure, saying the city was “insufficiently prepared” for the outbreak.
With an infection level of several thousand cases a day, Shanghai has become the heart of China’s worst COVID-19 outbreak since the virus was first detected in Wuhan in 2019.
The country reported 7,386 virus cases nationwide on Friday.
While tiny compared with many countries, the case numbers are alarming to China’s leadership, who have tethered the country to a “zero-Covid” approach to contain the pandemic.