Shanghai Lockdown 2022: the Neighbors

The last time I wrote about the April 2022 Shanghai Lockdown was April 7th, one week in (for me). It’s now April 20th and the lockdown continues, so it’s time for an update.

It’s not the Cultural Revolution all over again

First of all, I’d like to address some of the negative press the lockdown has received. I’m not enjoying this lockdown and I don’t think that government has handled it well (either in the big decisions or in the execution), but there’s still exaggeration in the western press, so I want to call it out.

This account is from the Guardian (April 19, 2022):

In the past few days, neighbours start to denounce each other in our WeChat group. Some days it was about who didn’t get a PCR test, other times it was about who tried to sneak out for food. In my friend’s compound, neighbours even start to call the police when they see someone getting downstairs or talking in a group.

I can see the uncanny resemblance between being “positive/suspicious” now and being “intellectual/bourgeois” in the 1960s during the Cultural Revolution.

OK, so of course this writer’s experience is different from my own. My compound might have had it easier (although my own building was fully sealed when a positive case was discovered on another floor). I have never had COVID. I’m not alone; I’m at home with my family, and all of us are doing OK mentally.

Lockdown in Shanghai
Photo by Lei Han

But this comparison to the Cultural Revolution really is over the top. And my experiences with my neighbors have been the exact opposite: rather than turning on each other and “denouncing” each other, relations have turned from chilly and distant (the unfortunate default in this city) to warm and helpful. I’ve honestly never felt closer to my neighbors. We’re just pulling together to make sure we all get food, can take care of our kids and pets, etc. When the one household had a positive case, no one in the building WeChat group reacted angrily. I saw nothing but positive support.

You can hear me discussing this situation on the You Can Learn Chinese podcast below (full episode is on SupChina here):

Q&A: Robots and Food

Finally, a little Q&A from an email (shout out to April!), because I’ve heard this question multiple times as a result of reports in American media:

Q: Do you see the robot dogs walking thru town asking you to stay in-doors? (saw this on YouTube).

A: No, no robot dogs (or robots of any kind). I’ve heard there are drones monitoring, but haven’t seen any myself. It’s not widespread.

Q: How is your food supply? Do you have enough food or is it delivered?

A: We have plenty of food, although we don’t have a lot of freedom to choose it. We just group order (with the other people in our building) whatever we can get when we can. Still, plenty of milk, eggs, rice, meat, etc. (Bread and fruit sometimes run out, though.)

Lockdown Changes

As of yesterday (April 19th), restrictions were loosened on both my building and on our apartment complex as a whole. We can’t leave our compound, but we can go outside again. (This is a huge plus for those of us with kids and dogs!)

It’s actually a lot like things right before the lockdown… the kids are still doing school from home. The biggest difference is that I still can’t go to the store or have most things delivered. So group buy (团购) is still the norm for getting food. (Epermarket is getting a lot of business from me this month!)

But even deliveries are starting to open up a bit. Hema (马) has apparently resumed deliveries to some areas, although it’s impossible to get an order in before they sell out. I hear that some restaurants and shops are resuming individual delivers (without the group buy minimum order of 1000+ RMB).

We’ve been doing tons of testing in April, both in the form of self-test antigen kits and nucleic acid PCR tests administered by others. that finally seems to be calming down too.

I’m expecting home schooling and work from home to resume for weeks still, but I’m holding out hope that regular deliveries will resume before too long. There’s hope!

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