Shanghai Snippets – The Front Line Report on April 12th
Is Commissar Sun’s Covid regime running out of steam?
The Shanghai government, with Commissar Sun in temporary command, continues its reluctant attempt at operating the largest city in China as a command economy with 0.01% of its normal work force – clearly not a recipe for success.
Food deliveries from the government continue but are sporadic. Commercial food deliveries still exist in theory from Dingdong (叮咚) and Meituan (美团), but demand far outpaces supply. Here’s how that works: You make your selection in advance, then wait until 6am each morning to see if it’s your lucky day. Meituan gives you one more chance at 8am. When 6am rolls around, start clicking. With a bit of luck, you may get some of the things on your list. Previously Alibaba’s Hema (盒马) unit also delivered, but it seems their special permit was revoked.
Despite the restrictions, private citizens are however finding workarounds. Most housing compounds (小区) have privately organized group purchases of supplies in bulk (团购) delivered directly from farm sources. These are fairly expensive and you can’t make individual selections. But… it’s food. Beggars can’t be choosers. Each rural “village” has reportedly been allocated five passes for delivery trucks to carry goods into the city areas. Presumably these go to the highest bidders. As usual in command economies, consumers pay higher prices for inferior goods, with some of that extra money ultimately landing in the pockets of those able to obtain the required permits.
Normal delivery services remain suspended.
Numbers Exploding, Camps Overflowing
Lockdowns and mass testing seem to offer ideal conditions for an explosion in case numbers. With already over 200,000 Shanghainese having tested positive, Commissar Sun seems to have already hit a brick wall with her mass internment policy. The camps are bursting at their seams and new capacity cannot be built quickly enough. Moreover, provinces outside Shanghai are allegedly refusing to take any more shipments of internees from Shanghai. As a result, many planned deportations have been called off.
According to our sources, Pudong residents who tested positive before and including April 8th will no longer be deported. Instead, they can continue to quarantine at home. It’s not clear if the same policy applies in Puxi.
The latest policy seems to focus instead on new cases, mandating that these be shipped off to the camps immediately.
If you are nonetheless threatened with deportation, barring declaration of martial law you can still refuse to go. Many residents have reported having had success with this approach. Typically, the local policeman (片警) and/or the neighborhood committee staff will try to convince you by phone to agree, claiming for example that if you do not agree, “your QR code will be red forever.” Given that policies are changing all the time, this threat is silly and can be safely ignored. Another common lie is that “all your neighbors already agreed and if you continue to hold out, your housing compound will remain locked down forever, all because of you.” Stand your ground; time is on your side. Claiming to only speak English may also save breath.
Most housing compounds remain closed, because the presence of a single new positive case results in an extension of the lockdown by 14 days. It’s a fair guess that this ongoing new case flow can be directly connected to the repeated mass testing mandated by the Commissar. This policy seems unsustainable.
Here are a few other updates on the latest situation for readers located in Shanghai:
1) Some policy clarifications.
Home quarantine instead of deportation for close contacts. We can surmise that this is due to a lack of capacity.
As of April 3rd, no more separation of children from parents.
No policy of killing pets. In the prevailing atmosphere of fear, it’s understandable that many people imagine the virus lurking everywhere. The Shanghai Daily reported on a case where a dog was killed, but contrary to sensationalist reporting in the Western press, there is no policy advocating the killing of pets. There is also a picture of captured cats in bags circulating on the Internet, but there does not seem to be any information on the origin of the video – i.e. when and where it was shot. The real issue is that many pets whose owners have been deported to the camps are stuck in apartments without sufficient food and water. Commissar Sun does not seem concerned with pet welfare.
2) Shanghai real estate prices impacted.
The stability of Shanghai’s government has long been a key factor driving demand for Shanghai real estate. With policies rarely subject to erratic changes, this made Shanghai into a low risk investment destination, and that in turn kept prices high. Perceived policy stability is of course also an important driver behind the significant foreign presence in Shanghai. The unprecedented degradation in both civil rights and general standard of living since the start of the mass lockdown inevitably makes Shanghai property less valuable.
3) Deportation process clarification.
Some people have reported being initially taken to what is euphemistically called an ‘isolation center’ (隔离点). In reality these are often just public buildings which happen to be empty, such as schools. They have absolutely no facilities but some deportees have been kept there overnight.
4) Getting rid of your red QR code.
For readers who are already stuck in one of the camps, as a rule of thumb, assuming you are asymptomatic or are able to recover after several days of sickness, you should be able to test 35 or higher approximately 10-14 days after first symptoms appear. You need two consecutive negative tests to get your ticket home. Effective treatment, for example with hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and zinc, may shorten the process. Some anecdotal evidence suggests that levofloxacine may also be helpful in minimizing throat infections.
For those who previously tested positive and are in home quarantine it’s unclear if there is any new plan regarding testing.
We will issue further updates as the situation evolves.