Chinese Australians in Sydney buy food for family during Shanghai’s COVID-19 lockdown
Sydney resident Linda Li was so worried her parents wouldn’t have enough to eat while living under the strict COVID-19 lockdown in Shanghai, she took matters into her own hands.
Group buying is now part of a survival strategy for residents under Shanghai’s strict lockdown
The city of 25 million has been under various forms of lockdown since late March
Fresh fruits and vegetables and medicines are the most in demand
Fresh food has become scarce for some in the Chinese city of 25 million.
Since late March, millions of residents have been confined to their homes and delivery services restricted to contain the Omicron outbreak.
“From the start, we were very worried about food supplies and what we could do in an emergency,” said Ms. Li, who was so worried she barely slept for a week.
Ms Li placed a bulk order for her parents – who don’t know how to shop online – and their neighbors.
The 20 food parcels included fresh fruit, vegetables, pork and cooking oil.
“A man who had permission to leave his home in [my parents’] neighborhood helped deliver them to people’s doorsteps,” Ms. Li said.
Online group buying – which has been common in China for years because people buying collectively can get lower prices – has become part of a survival strategy for Shanghai residents.
“I joined many groups that organize group purchases in my parents’ residential complex, but I was worried about food safety and where the food came from, so I started my own group,” said Ms. Li.
The city, grappling with China’s biggest coronavirus outbreak to date, recorded 20,634 new asymptomatic local infections on Friday, down from 15,698 the day before.
The major financial center reported 12 new deaths related to COVID-19.
Millions of Shanghai residents remain under tight control even as the government begins to ease quarantine rules in some compounds that have not seen a COVID-19 case for at least a week.
However, even some of the 12.3 million people allowed outside are not allowed to leave their neighborhoods.
Although frustrations continued to simmer in Shanghai’s sealed residential compounds, local officials maintain there will be no letting up until new cases outside quarantine zones have all been cleared.
“The more critical the period becomes, the more we need to grit our teeth and concentrate our forces,” Shanghai Mayor Gong Zheng told the Shanghai government’s official WeChat channel on Friday.
Ms. Li said there was no sign of freedom for her parents yet and she was struggling to get more food.
She said bulk buying in their neighborhood in Pudong district had been suspended for a week to reduce the number of COVID cases, with bulk buying only allowed by neighborhood management.
“They’ve tightened the rules again. It’s called a ‘period of silence,'” she said.
“So far, I have not seen an urgent shortage of [groceries] in our neighborhood newsgroups, but let’s see what happens… in seven days.”
Local Shanghai media said last week that the “quiet period” was a rumour, but many residents took to social media to confirm the restrictions.
The ABC contacted the Shanghai municipal government to confirm whether there had been a tightening of the rules, but received no response.
Government urged to provide relief packages
Lynn Feng, another Sydney resident, also shopped online for her elderly parents and in-laws who live in two different areas of Shanghai.
“It’s been hard to buy what you want since the lockdown started,” Ms Feng said.
Ms. Feng uses several different online shopping apps, as well as group buying strategies, but struggles to find the right food available in the right neighborhoods.
Group purchases are mainly done through groups on WeChat, through programs integrated into this application.
“Many friends in Shanghai have to set an alarm clock at 5 a.m. to be able to shop online,” she said.
“It’s a pure test of whether you’re the lucky one.
“Even though we have an advantage with a two-hour time difference, I still often find [the shopping page] marked as unavailable due to insufficient transport capacity.”
Ms. Feng shopped on other apps, like JD.com, for individual food deliveries for her loved ones.
“Sometimes vegetables are shown as available on the app for people living in my in-laws’ neighborhood,” she said.
“But when I tried to place the order for my parents, they disappeared and there were only pandemic relief packages with a mix of meat and vegetables available.”
Ms. Feng’s mother has diabetes, so she can only eat certain foods.
“There’s a lot of fruit my mom can’t eat, so I had to cancel [some orders].”
Fresh fruits and vegetables and medicines were the most in demand, she said.
She added that food delivery could also be a problem and that five or six of her orders had not arrived.
Ms. Feng does not believe group buying is the best solution for people in lockdown and hopes the government can provide relief food parcels more often.
“If the government can send relief packages every five days, my parents and in-laws won’t need group purchases anymore,” she said.
“But you also never know what’s in those relief packages.
“My parents, from April 1 to April 11, received only one package from the government. It was mainly dried food such as mushrooms, mushrooms and dates.
“For any family that doesn’t have enough food, you can hardly make a meal out of it.
“It’s probably just the time when we have to rely on ourselves.”
On Friday, local officials vowed to relax virus checks on truck drivers who were hampering food supplies and trade.
A deputy mayor, Zhang Wei, pledged “every effort” to resolve the issues that have prompted complaints about the lack of food.