Shanghai supply chain in the spotlight as discontent grows over COVID restrictions

Shanghai authorities said they are trying to improve the distribution of food and essential goods to locked-in residents, responding to growing discontent over such difficulties over continuing COVID curbs.

Shanghai has sufficient reserves of staples such as rice and meat, but issues have arisen in distribution and last-mile deliveries because of epidemic control measures, Shanghai’s vice mayor Chen Tong said at a news conference on Thursday.

He said the city would try to reopen some wholesale markets and food stores and allow more delivery personnel out of locked-down areas. Officials will also crack down on price gouging, he added.

“In response to the various problems reported by the public, we have been holding meetings overnight to try and figure out solutions,” he said.

Shanghai, China’s financial hub, has imposed harsh movement restrictions to stem the spread of COVID, with only healthcare workers, volunteers, delivery personnel or people with special permission allowed on the streets.

Authorities say that has reduced the number of couriers, who must keep the city’s 26 million residents supplied, to just 11,000.

Lockdowns for the city’s residents eastern of the Huangpu river began on 28 March, while lockdowns for the rest of the city started on 1 April. The exercise originally was intended to last five days at most.

Shanghai, which has been conducting multiple rounds of testing, reported close to 20,000 new locally transmitted cases for Wednesday, 98% of which it said where asymptomatic.

However, there are signs that transmission is still happening in spite of the lockdowns. Of its 19,660 asymptomatic infections, 633 involved people who were not under quarantine or who faced control measures, the data showed.

Shanghai has denied rumours that it planned to suspend all delivery services amid concerns that the virus was being spread through such workers. It requires them to take PCR and antigen tests every day, and they can only deliver goods if they test negative.

China’s most-populous city has yet to give an indication of when lockdown measures will lift, fuelling uncertainty and prompting European businesses and economists to warn about the mounting toll they are having on its economy and attractiveness as an international financial hub.

Although Shanghai’s case numbers remain small by global standards, the city has emerged as a test bed for China’s “dynamic clearance” anti-COVID strategy, which seeks to test, trace and centrally quarantine all positive cases and their close contacts.

On Thursday, Shanghai city officials said they would continue to conduct more testing among its residents who will be asked to take PCR or self-administered antigen tests.

Indeed, Shanghai has converted dozens of buildings into quarantine facilities that can house tens of thousands of positive cases.

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