Shanghai grapples with food shortages under virus shutdown

BEIJING (AP) – Shanghai residents are struggling to get meat, rice and other food supplies under coronavirus control, which has confined most of its 25 million people to their homes, fueling despair Because the government tries to stop the outbreak from spreading.

People in China’s business capital complain that online grocers often sell out. Some got government food packages meat and vegetables for a few days. But there is growing concern with no word on when they will be allowed out.

Zhang Yu, 33, said his family of eight eats three meals a day, but has reduced his intake of noodles for lunch. They did not get any government supplies.

“It’s not easy to maintain,” said Zhang, who begins online shopping at 7 a.m.

“We read (food) on the news, but we can’t buy it,” she said. “As soon as you go to the grocery shopping app, it says today’s order has been filled.”

The complaints are an embarrassment for the ruling Communist Party during a politically sensitive year when President Xi Jinping is expected to try to break tradition and give himself a third five-year term as leader.

Shanghai highlights the growing human and economic cost of China’s “zero-Covid” strategy that aims to isolate every infected person.

On Thursday, the government reported 23,107 new cases across the country, of which all except 1,323 had no symptoms. This included 19,989 in Shanghai, where only 329 had symptoms.

Complaints of food shortages began after Shanghai closed parts of the city on March 28.

The plans called for a four-day shutdown of the districts while residents were tested. It turned into an indefinite city-wide shutdown after the case count soared. Shoppers who received little warning snatched supermarket shelves.

City officials publicly apologized last week and promised to improve the food supply.

Officials say Shanghai, the world’s busiest port and China’s main stock exchange, has enough food. But a deputy mayor, Chen Tong, acknowledged on Thursday that getting it to “the last 100 meters” in homes is a challenge.

“Shanghai’s fight against the epidemic has reached its most critical moment,” Chen told a news conference, according to state media. He said the authorities “should go out to supply the livelihood of 2.5 crore people of the city.”

In the same incident, a vice president of China’s largest food delivery platform, Meituan, blamed a shortage of staff and vehicles, according to a transcript released by the company. Executive Mao Feng said Meituan has moved automated delivery vehicles and about 1,000 additional employees to Shanghai.

Another online grocer, Dingdong Macai, said it moved 500 employees to Shanghai to make deliveries from other positions.

Li Xiaoliang, an employee of a courier company, complained that the government ignored people staying in hotels. He said that he is sharing a room with two colleagues after he found positive cases near their rented house.

Lee, 30, said they brought instant noodles but they ran out. Now, they eat a day’s worth of meals in a 40 yuan ($6) lunch box ordered at the front desk, but the seller sometimes doesn’t deliver. On Thursday, Lee said he only had water for the whole day.

The local government office “clearly stated that they did not care for the hotel occupants and left us to find our way back,” Lee said. “What we need most now is supplies, food.”

In a possible protest this week after residents of a Shanghai apartment complex stood on their balconies to sing, a drone flew overhead and broadcast the message: “Control the soul’s desire for freedom and the window to sing Do not open This behavior runs the risk of spreading an epidemic.”

The government says it is trying to play down the impact of its strategy, but officials are still enforcing restrictions that block access to the industrial cities of Changchun and Jilin with millions of residents in the northeast. Huh.

While Shanghai port managers say operations are normal, Bettina Schoen-Behanzin, president of the city chapter of the European Chamber of Commerce in China, said its member companies estimated cargo volumes to drop by 40%. .

Employees are being hired to work in some large factories and financial firms. But Schoen-Behnzin said with no timetable for ending the lockdown, “some workers are no longer volunteering.”

Residents of smaller towns have also been temporarily confined to their homes this year as Chinese officials try to contain the outbreak.

In 2020, access to cities with a total of 60 million people was suspended in an unprecedented effort to contain the outbreak. The ruling party organized a vast supply network to bring in food.

A resident of Minhang district, west of Shanghai, who asked to be identified only by her surname, Chen, said her five families were given government food packages on March 30 and April 4. They included chicken, eggplant, carrots, broccoli and potatoes. ,

Now, vegetables are available online, but meat, fish and eggs are hard to find, Chen said. She joined a neighborhood “shopping club”. Minimum orders are 3,000 yuan ($500), “so you need other people,” she said.

“Everyone is making arrangements to order food, because we can’t trust the government to send it to us,” Chen said. “They’re not reliable.”

A message from an onlooker at an online news conference by the city’s health bureau challenged officials: “Put down the script! Please tell the leaders to buy vegetables from mobile phones on the spot.”

Gregory Gao, an automaker’s operations specialist who lives alone in downtown Yangpu district, said only Meituan remains after food vendors closed supply sites in the area.

“I’m not getting anything for two or three days in a row,” said 29-year-old Gao.

Zhang said some of his neighbors have run out of rice.

“The government had told us in the beginning that it would go on for four days,” she said. “Many people weren’t ready.”

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AP researchers Chen Si in Shanghai and Yu Bing in Beijing contributed.

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