The great confinement in Shanghai, China, continues, now entering its fifth week, in which the Chinese Communist Party has not been able to reduce the number of cases with its “zero covid” strategy. It is willing to do whatever it takes to subject the population to strict and controversial controls, such as prolonged confinement, testing for viruses several times a day, placing alarms with sensors on residents’ doors to prohibit them from leaving their homes, and even separating children from their parents.

According to Global Times, Shanghai, the country’s largest financial and commercial center, with a population of more than 25 million, implemented an electronic alarm system on the doors of some residences to prevent people from leaving their homes on April 21.

The comprehensive campaign that involves monitoring people through alarms began on April 5. Among other rules, it will also subject the population to rounds of constant mandatory nucleic acid testing in combination with antigen testing over the next five days.

Jane Polubotko, a Ukrainian marketing manager, held in the city’s largest quarantine center, noted that it was unclear when they would be released.

“Nobody knows how many tests we need to get out,” Polubotko told Reuters.

Shanghai has been in lockdown since March 25 and was completely closed until April 5. However, the strict measures escalated in relation to the increase in cases. They began with the closure of schools on March 11 to the total lockdown of residents, regardless of their coronavirus status (i.e., positive or negative), and they are required to go into quarantine, Reuters reported.

On April 6, despite people’s discontent in comments and videos on social media expressing their frustration with the lockdown policy, authorities showed no signs of wavering.

 “We must adhere to the general policy of dynamic clearance without hesitation, without wavering,” Wu Qianyu, an official with the municipal health commission, said at a briefing.

Shanghai’s quarantine policy was widely criticized for orders to separate children from their parents and round up asymptomatic cases among those with symptoms. 

On the issue of children and their parents, Wu insisted that those who tested positive should be kept separate. Even though 1000 Shanghai residents signed an online petition requesting that asymptomatic children be allowed to be isolated at home, the petition was ignored, and the request disappeared from WEChat.

In addition, the severe restrictions have affected residents who have been unable to leave their homes for several days.

Shanghai resident Catherin You said that no resident could leave the compound in Jingan district, where she has been living since April 21. Global Times reported they must stay in their homes and can only go downstairs to get food.

Regarding the food supply, residents began to barter objects and goods to have the essential means of subsistence due to the lack of food,  Bloomberg reported on April 14.

Kevin Lin, a 26-year-old hairdresser, took to trading with neighbors after he and his three roommates began to run out of food.

“I bought a whole lot of tissue paper before the lockdown. I would like to swap a few packs for food, ideally instant noodles,” Lin posted in a WeChat group chat with other people living in his building.

Stefanie Ge, a business owner in Shanghai, said, “Money itself has somehow fallen in value,” noting that she has traded everything for food.

Since April 7, reports emerged revealing that the city was running out of food supplies for its vast population on lockdown and that residents were forced to start rationing their food, Reuters reported.

At the time, Shanghai Vice Mayor Chen Tong admitted to the food shortage and acknowledged that food was not provided to the people due to a poorly implemented policy that did not take into account that the capacity of employees making deliveries was reduced by the high number of contagions, according to the Global Times.

For example, Reuters reported that government officials in northeastern China’s Jilin province were forced to publicly apologize on March 29 after reports of residents starving to death inside their homes were leaked online.

In April 2021, Forbes magazine declared Shanghai “the world’s most expensive city,” making its current food shortages even more shocking. 

According to The South China Morning Post, Shanghai’s wealthiest residents, including a billionaire named Kathy Xu Xin, were affected by food supply and delivery shortages during its current shutdown.

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