A boy undergoes a PCR test in Shanghai on March 13, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

Shanghai’s massive Covid-19 lockdown is stirring social unrest, prompting the government to vow to improve food supplies and essential services as criticism mounts over the harsh and in spots bumbling implementation of its “zero Covid” policy.

A viral video of the chaotic situation in a Nanhui district quarantine center showed people fighting for food, water and necessities amid a lack of support staff in the facility. Other videos have shown residents being kicked and beaten by healthcare workers as they are taken away from their homes to be put into quarantine.

PCR tests of the city’s 26 million residents found 30,431 people were infected with Covid-19 as of Tuesday, with 98% of them asymptomatic. The local government said most of the new infections were found in quarantine centers or isolated areas.

Pudong, a financial district and hub for expats on the eastern side of Shanghai, has been locked down since March 28 after thousands of Covid cases, mostly asymptomatic, were recorded per day.

The lockdown was set to end last Friday but was extended by the government as the number of infections in the city kept rising.

The western side of Shanghai also extended its lockdown period from Tuesday. The municipal government has not yet set a timetable for a return to post-lockdown normalcy. It said it hoped to find all those infected by using a citywide testing scheme, isolating them and thus cutting off all virus transmission chains as soon as possible.

On Sunday, the financial hub reported 311 new cases and 16,766 asymptomatic infections, compared with 268 new cases and 13,086 asymptomatic infections on Saturday.

Wu Qianyu, an inspector from the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission, said quarantine rules would be modified so children who tested positive could be accompanied by their parents.

On Monday, the Shanghai government insisted that parents would only be allowed to stay with their infected children if they also tested positive. The government was heavily criticized by the public for failing to consider the needs of infected children.

The Shanghai Expo Exhibition Hall converted to a Covid-19 facility in March, 2022. Photo: WikiCommons

Liu Min, the deputy director and inspector of the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce, held a media briefing on Wednesday and dismissed a rumor that parcel and food deliveries would soon be suspended in Shanghai.

Liu said 11,000 food couriers in the city were still delivering food for online platforms and they were required to undergo a PCR and rapid ATK test on a daily basis.

“There have been some difficulties in the supply of food and necessities, particularly some problems in the interprovincial and last-mile logistics. At this moment, the biggest challenge is how the food and necessities can be delivered to each home within lockdown districts,” Liu said.

Prior to this, some netizens complained that food and necessities were piled up at the front gates of many locked down areas, but there was no staff delivering them and people were not allowed to leave their homes.

A similar situation was seen in a new quarantine center in Nanhui district. People who were sent to the center could not receive any food and necessities, so they marched to the supply area and grabbed whatever they could get.

In a widely-circulated video, some people were seen taking a pile of bedsheets, while others grabbed lunch boxes. A woman complained in a video that she could only get a box of bottled water.

YouTube video

Another video showed a person being beaten up by a healthcare worker – or so-called “big white” in China because of the color of their protective gear – in Chendunzhen in Songjiang district.

A netizen called Zhong Xueling, who uploaded the video, said on Tuesday morning that Songjiang officials had called her many times and asked her to delete the video on social media. She said she refused to delete it and demanded the local government investigate the case.

However, she said Sina.com finally removed the video and related articles from Weibo at the request of Songjiang officials.

On Tuesday evening, the Songjiang district government said in an article that many people had thanked the “big white” who helped the district run PCR tests on Monday and Tuesday. The government highlighted that these healthcare workers came from nearby Zhejiang province.  

While many Shanghai residents are clearly losing their patience with the extended lockdown, the China Youth Daily, an official newspaper of the Communist Youth League of China, on Wednesday published a propaganda article titled “Shanghai under epidemic: challenges and warmth coexist.”

The article admitted that logistics within lockdown areas have had some problems, but many of these challenges had already been overcome as many volunteers offered help, it added.

Meanwhile, a netizen said the way the Shanghai government had categorized 98% of Covid patients as asymptotic was misleading. He said infected people might not have pneumonia, but their condition could still be serious.

He said many people had the wrong impression that the Omicron variant was only like a flu. He said based on Hong Kong’s death rate, Omicron could kill tens of thousands of people in Shanghai within weeks if not arrested.

Read: Military deployed to stop Shanghai’s viral spread

Follow Jeff Pao on Twitter at @jeffpao3