Shanghai is battling food shortages in the face of virus outages

BEIJING (AP) – Residents of Shanghai are struggling to get meat, rice and other food under control against the coronavirus, which detains most of the 25 million people in their homes, causing frustration as the government tries to stem the spread of the outbreak.

People in China’s business capital complain that online stores are often sold out. Some received government food packages with meat and vegetables for a few days. But when they are released, the anxiety grows.

Zhang Yu, 33, said her family of eight ate three meals a day, but gave up noodles for lunch. They did not receive state supplies.

“It’s not easy to keep going,” said Zhang, who starts shopping online at 7 p.m.

“We read in the news that there is (food), but we just can’t buy it,” she said. “As soon as you walk into the app to buy groceries, it says today’s orders are full.”

These complaints are embarrassing for the ruling Communist Party in a politically sensitive year, when President Xi Jinping is expected to try to break with tradition and sentence himself to a third five-year term as head of state.

Shanghai emphasizes the high human and economic costs of China’s “Zero COVID-19” strategy, which aims to isolate every infected person.

On Thursday, the government reported 23,107 new cases across the country, all but 1,323 of which 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.

Plans called for a four-day closure of areas while residents are inspected. This was replaced by an indefinite citywide opening after the number of cases increased sharply. Shoppers who received little warning were stripped of supermarket shelves.

Last week, city officials issued a public apology and promised to improve food supplies.

Officials say there is plenty of food in Shanghai, home to the world’s busiest port and China’s main stock exchange. But Deputy Mayor Chen Tong acknowledged that getting the “last 100 meters” for households on Thursday is a problem.

“Shanghai’s fight against the epidemic has reached its most critical moment,” Chen told a news conference, state media reported. He said officials “should make every effort to provide a life for the city’s 25 million residents.”

At the same event, Vice President Meituan, China’s largest food delivery platform, blamed a shortage of staff and vehicles, according to a transcript released by the company. CEO Mao Fang said Meituan has transported automated delivery vehicles and nearly 1,000 additional staff to Shanghai.

Another online retailer, Dingdong, said it had transferred 500 employees in Shanghai from other delivery posts.

Li Xiaoliang, an employee of the courier company, complained that the government does not notice people living in hotels. He said he shared the room with two colleagues after positive cases were found near his rented home.

Lee, 30, said they brought instant noodles, but it was over. They now eat once a day lunch boxes worth 40 yuan ($ 6) ordered at the front desk, but the seller sometimes does not deliver. On Thursday, Lee said he had only had water all day.

The local government office “clearly said they didn’t care about those staying at the hotel and left us to find our own way,” Lee said. “Most of all we need supplies now, food.”

After residents of a Shanghai apartment complex stood on balconies this week to sing in protest, a drone flew overhead and delivered the message: “Control the soul’s desire for freedom and don’t open the window to sing. Such behavior threatens the spread of the epidemic. “

The government says it is trying to reduce the impact of its tactics, but authorities are still introducing curbs that also block access to the industrial cities of Changchun and Jilin with millions of residents in the northeast.

While Shanghai port managers say the operation is going well, Betina Schoen-Behanzin, chairwoman of the city branch of the European Chamber of Commerce in China, said member companies estimated that the volume of transhipped cargo had dropped by 40%.

Some large factories and financial firms force employees to sleep at work to keep working. But Sean-Behanzin said that without a blockade schedule, “some workers are no longer volunteers.”

This year, residents of small towns have also been temporarily locked in their homes as Chinese officials try to contain the outbreaks.

In 2020, access to cities with a total of 60 million people was suspended in an unprecedented attempt to contain the outbreak. The ruling party has organized extensive supply chains for food delivery.

A resident of the Minghan district on the west side of Shanghai, who asked to be named only after Chen, said her family of five received state food packages on March 30 and April 4. These included chicken, eggplant, carrots, broccoli and potatoes. .

Vegetables are now available online, but meat, fish and eggs are hard to find, Chen said. She joined the district “shopping club”. The minimum orders are 3,000 yuan ($ 500), “so you need other people,” she said.

“Everyone is getting organized to order food because we can’t count on the government to send it to us,” Chen said. “They’re not reliable.”

A message from the viewer of the online press conference of the city health bureau challenges officials: “Write down the script! Please tell the managers to buy vegetables on the mobile phone on the spot. “

Gregory Gao, a carmaker’s maintenance specialist who lives alone in downtown Yanpu, said only Maituan remained after food vendors said supplies in the area were closing.

“I can’t get anything for two or three days in a row,” the 29-year-old Gao said.

Zhang said some of her neighbors ran out of rice.

“In the beginning, the government told us it would last four days,” she said. “A lot of people weren’t prepared.”

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Researchers AP Chen Xi from Shanghai and Yu Bin from Beijing contributed to this report.

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