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What is happening in Shanghai? Explaining the ongoing citywide COVID lockdown

As China faces the largest COVID-19 outbreak since 2020, residents in Shanghai have not been able to leave their homes or buy groceries for weeks.

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Shanghai, the financial center of China and a city of 25 million, is in its fifth week of lockdown. Facing the uncertainty of unending restrictions and persistently high case numbers, residents are left hungry and frustrated.

The lockdown follows China’s largest-ever COVID-19 outbreak since 2020. Starting late February, the country has seen a spike in daily positive cases.

Data reported to the World Health Organization showed 38,163 new confirmed cases on Feb. 26, an increase from around 9,000 cases the day before and under 300 cases daily prior to February. 

Since March, a few regions have become the COVID-19 hot spots in the country, including Jilin Province in northeast China, the city of Shenzhen in southern Guangdong Province and the city of Shanghai. That is a total of around 63 million residents impacted. According to NPR, more than half of Chinese cities are under some sort of lockdown.

While stringent lockdown measures were lifted in the majority of those cities as cases started to decrease in early April, residents of Shanghai have not been able to leave their residential communities since March 28 due to deteriorating conditions. The case number continued to increase around 20,000 every day.

On March 27, city officials announced that the lockdown would start to the east of Huangpu River, the largest river in Shanghai that splits the city into two parts.

This first stage of the lockdown was planned to last until April 1 and continued in the western part of the city.

Within areas under lockdown, residents are not allowed to leave their apartments. And deliveries, including packages and food, are not allowed to enter residential neighborhoods. Public transportation and grocery stores are closed. Businesses, with the exception of major utility industries, closed for in-person work.

Residents must order food in advance or wait for government drop-offs. But strict rules mean limited delivery capacity into the lockdown areas, leaving many residents hungry and wondering when their next meal may come. 

Lockdown: Shanghai installs metal barriers to seal off streets, residential buildings to contain COVID outbreak

By March 31, officials announced the continuation of a citywide lockdown despite the original staged approach, citing a rise in cases. Residents are unable to leave their apartments besides getting PCR tested, which happens daily at the discretion of each neighborhood. 

Those who test positive are transported to makeshift hospitals with thousands of beds and nursing stations to accommodate COVID-19 patients until they test negative twice. According to state media, Shanghai has converted over 100 makeshift hospitals with over 200,000 beds.  

Shanghai residents struggle for medicine, food
Millions of Shanghai residents remain confined in their homes even after authorities began easing lockdown restrictions. Access to food and medicine remain scarce, as distribution and supply chains are frozen with couriers and other key workers under quarantine. (April 14)

PHOTOS by Getty Images

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