Is Everyone in Shanghai Starving to Death?

The highs and lows of a prison-level lockdown

Jordan Fraser


Photo by Callum Shaw on Unsplash

I’ve gained the suspicion over the past week that Shanghai is becoming more heavily featured in the news back in my native Australia, judging by the amount of people coming out of the woodwork to ask me about it.

Are you eating? Is everyone ready to revolt? Are you coming back to Australia yet? (The answers are yes, kind of, and hell no).

But while the situation is far from deadly, I’ll admit that it’s a fascinating case study on what happens when a full-scale lockdown is enacted and carried out to a, frankly, over-the-top extent.

The biggest casualty of this particular lockdown has been the complete and overnight loss of our regular way of procuring food. Shanghai has had a level of access untouched by any other city in recent years. Local delivery apps can have any type of meal from anywhere in the world delivered to your house in under an hour at a fraction of the cost of cooking it. Because of that, almost no-one here cooks, and almost no-one stores ingredients.

This has caused a food catastrophe as, unlike in 2020, ghost kitchens, supermarkets, and everyday suppliers are all shut-down. This has forced the creation of a system that seemingly sprung from science fiction.

Photo by Chang Duong on Unsplash

The Apartment-Supermarket System

The official replacement for all supermarkets, ghost kitchens, and restaurants has been two government-approved suppliers and their apps. These services open their virtual doors at 6am each morning and sell until they’ve run out, usually within 10 minutes. From 6am on the dot, everyone furiously taps their phone trying to pay and may or may not succeed. The vast majority of the time, success isn’t going to happen. There’s too little food and too many people. I covered my experience using these apps in a previous story.

Aside from this method, the only other way of ordering food is through community groups.

Here in Shanghai, just about everyone lives in an apartment building. So, all…