China: Panic buying in divided Shanghai under lockdown

Residents in Shanghai are scrambling to stock up on supplies while thousands quarantine in offices, as a lockdown rolls out in the divided city.

After weeks of isolated compound lockdowns, the city of 25 million has been split into two.

Earlier this week those living in Shanghai’s eastern half were told to stay home, with the western half due to enter a lockdown on Friday.

The move comes as the city battles a surge in Omicron Covid cases.

The city has reported around 20,000 Covid-19 infections since 1 March, registering more cases in four weeks than in the previous two years of the pandemic.

China’s zero-Covid strategy has been increasingly challenged by the highly infectious Omicron variant.

Officials in China’s cosmopolitan financial capital had earlier attempted to keep the city running by limiting lockdowns to select neighbourhoods or buildings.

But on Sunday authorities announced a mass lockdown that saw the city being split along the Huangpu River.

Residents living in the Pudong area, on the river’s eastern bank, were told to stay at home for four days starting on Monday. Puxi, on the western bank, will enter lockdown on Friday.

Mass testing is also being carried out to screen all of Shanghai’s residents for the virus.

Earlier this week, rumours circulating that authorities would bring forward Puxi’s lockdown by several days or prolong the city’s quarantine period reached a fever pitch, resulting in residents thronging supermarkets.

Authorities on Tuesday sought to quash the speculation with a statement calling it “pure rumours”.

But several residents living in western districts received notice on Tuesday from their housing committees that they would be stopped from leaving their compounds for the next seven days, reported Reuters.