SHANGHAI: Residents in the western districts of Shanghai rushed to stock up on groceries on Thursday (Mar 31) as they braced to go under lockdown, as the city's authorities issued an appeal for continued cooperation with tight curbs imposed to stop COVID-19 spreading.
The Chinese financial hub, home to 26 million people, is in the fourth day of a two-stage lockdown. Authorities have split the city into two, roughly along the Huangpu River, dividing the historic centre west of the river from the eastern financial and industrial district of Pudong for the exercise.
Public transport in the areas west of the river are set to be shut and residents locked into their homes from 3am on Friday.
In central Shanghai, vegetable sellers and butchers hawked their wares from behind barriers set up ahead of the lockdown and on sidewalks. Restaurants advertised their stock at deep discounts through chat groups, hoping to ease some of their losses.
"Lockdown super deal!!! 50 per cent off on steaks", said a pamphlet from a high-end steak house in the city.
The city's two-stage lockdown first begun in districts in the east on Monday and are set to be lifted at 5am on Friday. However some residents told Reuters they were prepared to asked to stay in for longer, especially as the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to rise.
Ma Chunlei, deputy secretary general of the Shanghai government, told a daily news conference on Thursday that officials would look at testing results and confer with experts to determine how the lifting of the first stage of the lockdown would be carried out.
Shanghai authorities said on Thursday the city's overall daily COVID caseload eased for the first time in about two weeks.
It reported 5,298 locally transmitted new asymptomatic cases and 355 symptomatic cases for Wednesday, compared with 5,656 local asymptomatic cases and 326 new cases with symptoms reported a day earlier.
Shanghai accounted for almost 80per cent of local asymptomatic cases reported across the whole of China for Wednesday, and about 20per cent of those with symptoms.
The outbreak and curbs to stop its spread have caused massive disruptions to the lives of its residents as well as to the many businesses there.
US electric car maker Tesla is extending a production halt at its Shanghai factory for at least one day, having already suspended production since Monday, two sources told Reuters.
Volkswagen's Shanghai joint venture with SAIC Motor said it would maintain some production between Apr 1 to 5 by providing accommodation and meals at its factory for employees who had volunteered to work, it said.
Many across the city have taken to social media to vent their frustrations, posting videos and images of crowded quarantine centres and also issuing calls for help with medical treatment and purchasing food.
The Shanghai government said on Thursday in a letter to the city's residents that it was grateful for their efforts and acknowledged their sacrifices, especially as some had been in quarantine and lockdown for a long time. Still, it urged them to keep cooperating in order to battle the virus' spread.
Ma, the Shanghai government official, however, acknowledged that the city could have done more, and that authorities were trying to improve provision of food supplies as well as addressing issues with seeking medical help.
"Our knowledge about the highly contagious Omicron variant has been insufficient, we were inadequately prepared for the fast-rising number of infected patients, and our control measures have not been up to speed," he said.
Still, despite the irritation among some in Shanghai who question its practicality, the "dynamic clearance" approach adopted by China will not be relaxed, state news agency Xinhua said in a commentary late on Wednesday. The tactic was essential to protect lives and the people's health, Xinhua said.