CNN claims they’re the only U.S. news outlet with a reporter inside the city, which may well be true. This is the first time I’ve seen an American correspondent broadcasting live from Shanghai.
Enjoy David Culver while you can, though, because if he tests positive he’ll be going away for awhile to a quarantine facility in parts unknown. He’s so worried about that, in fact, that in his account of his experience for CNN.com he says he’s prepared a box of essentials for his dog, Chairman. If Culver’s whisked away to isolate somewhere, he hopes that someone will come by and care for his pet — but there’s no guarantee. The dog may end up starving in the apartment. Or worse.
In Wuhan at the start of the pandemic, Chinese authorities were known to weld the doors of people’s apartments shut to make sure they didn’t leave. Two years later, says Culver, with government personnel scattered across Shanghai and keeping an eye on residents’ comings-and-goings, lockdown is enforced more elegantly. They seal your door with paper now. If you leave when you’re not supposed to, they’ll know at a glance by the broken seal. Then you’ll be in trouble. And you don’t want to be in trouble.
Don’t be daunted by the length of this clip, as Culver is featured only in the first three minutes. Watch, then read on.
The news from Shanghai today is that lockdown rules are being “relaxed” but only for about a quarter of the population. I wrote a few days ago about how city authorities were shifting to a more targeted approach in which lockdowns would be tailored to particular districts or neighborhoods rather than imposed city-wide. If you’re lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with no positive tests, you’re now free to move about. If you aren’t — and most aren’t — then get used to starvation.
The government eased restrictions by announcing residents of areas with no cases for at least two weeks can leave their homes starting Tuesday. It said they could go to other areas that also had no new cases during that time but were urged to stay home when possible.
Such “prevention areas” have about 4.8 million people, The Paper reported, citing city officials. It said all but 500,000 of those were in less crowded suburbs.
An additional 1.8 million people in “control areas” with no new cases in the past week are allowed out but can’t leave their neighborhoods, the report said.
Another 15 million people in “quarantine areas” that have had infections in the past week still are barred from leaving their homes. The report gave no indication of the status of the remaining 3.4 million people in the official population.
The government is making food shipments but coverage is spotty. Some households are getting two shipments a week, says the AP, while others report getting nothing. Some residents are down to one meal per day. “I ration my food and make the most of what arrives in the box and any extra food my community has been able to source,” Culver wrote of his own survival strategy. “Lately, most of my meals have been a combination of eggs and carrots — you have to get creative.”
Chinese citizens across the country are watching this play out and doing exactly what you’d expect them to do, raising the prospect of wider food shortages in China:
In Beijing, where some residential districts have been closed in recent weeks as infections have been discovered, supermarket shelves in some parts of the city have been picked clean of toilet paper, canned foods, instant noodles and rice in recent days.
In Suzhou, an industrial hub roughly two hours’ drive west of Shanghai, residents swarmed supermarkets to fill their grocery baskets with instant noodles and other food on Tuesday morning, hours after local officials said they would conduct districtwide testing in one section of the city.
On social media, Chinese are reportedly sharing checklists of food to stock up on and strategies for growing vegetables and freezing tofu. The risk that lockdowns will spread to other parts of the country is real: At least 23 cities are under some form of restriction, Scott Gottlieb noted yesterday, with Guangzhou now sealed off to visitors after it recorded 27 cases in a population of 18 million people. “Even with the mass testing, we can assume that the virus has moved beyond Shanghai before the city was locked down,” said one Hong Kong professor to CNN. If major outbreaks emerge in other locales, the CCP will face hard decisions on how to manage them. It’s already sent tens of thousands of medical personnel to Shanghai to conduct daily testing. Do those personnel redeploy to Guangzhou if there’s a spike there? Do they send in the PLA to do testing instead?
It’s a great irony of Shanghai’s ordeal that it may lead the Chinese government towards an even more draconian form of its disastrous “zero COVID” policy. That is, one could argue that Shanghai’s big mistake was that it didn’t lock down sooner, when case counts were small, to snuff out transmission instead of waiting until the virus had begun to spread in earnest. Other Chinese cities may pay for that mistake with sudden early lockdowns, and they know it. Hence the food hoarding.
The situation is grim enough that the State Department just urged all non-emergency workers and their families in Shanghai to evacuate. There’s no telling how hard it might be soon to find food or to what the Chinese government might resort in order to stop the spread.
I’ll leave you with another segment Culver did for CNN last night on life in one of the world’s biggest cities as it slowly starves to death. Maybe he should think about trying to get out too.