explainer

Desperate residents are screaming from their apartments in Shanghai. Here's why.


With lockdowns seemingly behind us, it can be a jolt to the system to realise that there are still countries where wide-scale lockdowns are a part of everyday life.

Yet of course, each country has been and is dealing with the pandemic in their own way.

You might have seen some rumblings in your social media feed or caught a headline or two about what is going in Shanghai. Here's a breakdown of what is happening.

What's going on in Shanghai? 

Shanghai is China's largest city and its global financial hub. With a population of almost 30 million, it is the most populous urban area in the country and one of the biggest cities in the world.

And now, the whole of Shanghai is in lockdown with over 220,000 positive COVID cases.

This is the first city-wide lockdown it has faced since the start of the pandemic. Previously, to deal with outbreaks, there were smaller localised lockdowns where several hundred residents were confined to their homes. 

Localised lockdowns may seem surprising given China's very strict zero-COVID strategy.

To put things in perspective, the city of Xi'an - which has 13 million people - went into full lockdown after less than 100 COVID cases were diagnosed in December last year. The city of Yuzhou, with a population of just over a million, went into lockdown after a mere three COVID cases.

The reason that Shanghai has not enforced a full-scale lockdown before is likely due to its economic importance. According to the BBC, Shanghai has contributed over three per cent of China's GDP and makes up over 10 per cent of China's total trade since 2018, while its airports are responsible for bringing in nearly half of the protective equipment and medicine needed during the pandemic.

Lockdowns happen. So why are the residents screaming?

In essence, government officials failed to take into account food distribution. With residents under strict orders to stay indoors, with supermarkets and grocery stores closed, the only way people can get food is to have it delivered.

But with many delivery drivers and grocery workers in isolation or in lockdown themselves, there has been tremendous demand and very little supply.

At most risk has been the elderly, who do not know how to properly use the online delivery system, and foreigners who don't speak the language. 

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, neighbours are banding together in an effort to get food. They have pooled together large amounts of money to place very large orders, filling up truckloads.

In addition to food shortages, children and parents have been separated from each other if one or the other has been found to have COVID.

According to the ABC, many elderly patients have died in hospital due to lack of care and staffing issues.

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Pets have been confiscated and killed. The footage on social media of animals being seized and put to death are too awful to show here.

Beggars have been stomped on and beaten.

Ambulances have driven away from the sick.

In desperation, many residents have been screaming from their windows and balconies.

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When will the lockdown end?

There are signs the lockdown in Shanghai has started to ease over the last day or two. Some residents in "lower risk" areas of infection have been let out of their homes, but they are reportedly unsure where they're allowed to go to.

At this point in time, all we can do is raise awareness of what is happening in Shanghai in the hopes that their suffering will ease with increased scrutiny from people - and governments - around the world.