Restrictions start easing after Shanghai outbreak

“I am particularly envious of my friends who live in other provinces,” says Chen Yuqi.

“I see my friends posting photos of them eating hot pot and barbecuing on social media, and I am very happy for them, but I also want to be like them and hope that the epidemic in Shanghai will end soon.”

Ms Chen is a student at the University of Melbourne, and she chose to return to Shanghai for an internship just before she was about to graduate.

But coronavirus returned to Shanghai with a vengeance, and like the rest of the nearly 25 million inhabitants of the city she went into lockdown, completing her internship from home.

The outbreak in Shanghai began in early March.

The city of Shenzhen tightened restrictions on the number of people crossing the border from Hong Kong, limiting it to 300 people per day.

To facilitate the entry to the mainland, Shanghai volunteered to take the pressure off Shenzhen, overseeing entry and quarantine for people from Hong Kong.

To meet the increasing demand for quarantine hotels, the Shanghai Jinjiang company took the initiative to use its “Huating Hotel” for quarantine

On February 9, Shanghai Huating Hotel announced it would officially close on February 16 and start renovations.

But when the people who needed to quarantine came to the hotel, the renovation had not yet started, and the hotel had completed only the relevant clearance work.

The hotel became ‘ground zero’ or the starting point for the current wave of coronavirus in Shanghai.

Because the hotel was built in the 1980s, the internal air conditioning and ventilation ducts were interconnected.

There was no filtering device so the virus spread through the air.

Soon, it was all over the hotel but hotel staff and epidemic prevention personnel were utterly unaware, getting infected and spreading the virus out of the premises.

In just a few days, from March 6 to 10 2022, sixteen people in the Huating were infected.

The hotel conducted a closed-loop covid test and found positive results throughout the hotel complex.

Outside the hotel, the virus spread more rapidly.

Subsequently, there was no blockade and control of the source of the wave, which led to a two month closure of Shanghai.

“In the beginning, I received news from the government that the city would not be closed but the control would be strengthened – I didn’t expect that the virus spread too fast, and a large number of people were infected in just a few days, which eventually led to lockdown of the city,” Ms Chen says.

“In the first few days, there was still food at home, but after we ran out of food, we had to start thinking…we formed a chat room with people in the same community and unified supplies we needed.”

She says the group found local deliveries which helped them go to the supermarket to buy food.

“After all the supplies in Shanghai have been exhausted, we have ushered in the most difficult stage – the refrigerator at home is empty, [goods in] the supermarket were also snapped up, and our daily food came from instant noodles distributed by the community,” she says.

“Three days later, supplies from other provinces came to Shanghai, and we received food packages from the government every day, which contained vegetables, meat, and milk.”

Authorities also developed an app, Ms Chen explains.

“We need to order the food and vegetables we need on time at 6 am every day on that app – although food was still in short supply, our life was guaranteed.”

During the lockdown, people around the world paid attention to social media reports of life in Shanghai.

“Many people were starving, and the hospital lacked medicines, resulting in some patients not being able to be treated in time,” Ms Chen says.

She says the outbreak caught everyone off guard.

“I am also afraid that a blockade will come [again] from time to time, but I hope we can pass this time safely – the virus is spreading very fast and I don’t want to be infected,” she says.

“I am also very grateful to the government for providing us with daily necessities and I hope the epidemic will pass soon.”

Ms Chen’s tone is very relaxed.

Although the outbreak has brought a lot of challenges to the people of Shanghai, her attitude is still positive, and in Shanghai it’s coming to an end.

After two months in lockdown, the 16 districts of the world’s most populous city have achieved zero infections.

Ms Chen looks forward to the imminent easing of restrictions and life in Shanghai slowly returning to normal.

“When it’s all over, I also want to eat hot pot,” she says.