Saturday, May 21, 2022

Lockdown Diaries: Slowly Getting Better (maybe)

Quasimodo singing "Out There," from the movie "Hunchback of Notre Dame." Image source.

Posts about the covid outbreak in Shanghai, China:

On the Current Covid Outbreak in Shanghai (March 12)
I'm in Lockdown (March 16)
I'm Still in Lockdown (March 19)
I'm in Lockdown Again (March 25)
Now All of Pudong (East Shanghai) is in Lockdown (March 28)
Lockdown Diaries: Covid Case in Our Complex, and Free Veggies from the Government (March 31)
Lockdown Diaries: Antigen Self-Tests, and Children with Covid (April 3)
Lockdown Diaries: Dressing Up, Free Medicine, Free Rice (April 6)
Lockdown Diaries: I am Okay, Shanghai is Not (April 9)
Lockdown Diaries: Part of Shanghai is Out of Lockdown (April 12)
Lockdown Diaries: Dystopian Madness (April 15)
Lockdown Diaries: 3 Covid Deaths Reported in Shanghai (April 18)
Lockdown Diaries: More of the Same (April 22)
Lockdown Diaries: This is a Human-Made Disaster (April 26)
Lockdown Diaries: Exciting New Definition of "Society" (May 1)
Lockdown Diaries: Some People Can Go to the Grocery Store (May 3)
Lockdown Diaries: More and More People Get to Go Out (a little bit) (May 7)
Lockdown Diaries: Taking a Whole Building to Quarantine (May 10)
Lockdown Diaries: Restrictions on Chinese Citizens Leaving China (May 13)
Lockdown Diaries: June 1 Target for "Back to Normal" (yeah not gonna happen) (May 17)


Here's the updated timeline:

March 16-21: First lockdown. 6 days.

March 23-now: Second lockdown. 60 days and counting.

Nucleic acid tests (conducted by baymax, ie, the workers in white hazmat suits): 29 times (March 16, 17, 19, 20, 23, 26, 28, 30, April 4, 6, 9, 14, 17, 19, 20, 21, 24, 26, 27, 29, May 2, 4, 6, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20)

Antigen self-tests: 28 times (April 2, 3, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13 [twice], 15, 16, 22, 23, 25, 28 [twice], 30, May 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21)

(The above info is specific to our apartment complex. Other apartment complexes in Shanghai will have a similar situation but not exactly the same.)


Apparently Shanghai is slowly reopening

So recently I've been seeing news articles about how factories in Shanghai are starting up again, and subways and bus lines are going to be starting up again, and things like that.

That's nice, I guess? I mean, I see these things in the news, but there doesn't seem to be any connection to my actual life- I'm in lockdown. I haven't been allowed to go anywhere at all for 2 months, and there's no signs at all of that changing. (Except for one sign- 2 people from our building were allowed to go shopping- I'll talk about that later in the post.)

So... okay... they're saying we're on track to get "back to normal" in June, but who knows.

An example of a green health code, showing the location where this person has just registered (a park), and the 48-hour negative covid test result. Source: WeChat.

Also, the Shanghai government has rolled out this new "location code" (场所码) system. Do you remember the "health code" app I talked about in my March 25 post? Well this "location code" is a new addition to that app. It will work like this: When you are at some public location, like a mall or subway station, there will be a QR code posted there, and you have to scan it (in the health code app 随申办). In this way, every location will have a record of who was there and when- and will make sure that everyone has a green health code, otherwise they won't be allowed to enter.

After scanning the location code, the name of the location will be displayed under your green QR code. (see image above) I guess this it's easy to check if people scanned it or not.

And another new thing in the health code app: It now also displays info about when your most recent nucleic acid test was. On the same screen as your green QR code, so it's easy to show to the security guard when you enter the mall or whatever. It might say "48小时内核酸检测结果【阴性】" ("Nucleic acid test result within 48 hours [Negative]" - as in the above image), or 24 hours, or some number of days, or whatever the case may be. Apparently public places and public transportation are going to start requiring everyone to show they have a negative nucleic acid test within the past 48 hours. And also, the city of Shanghai says they are setting up enough nucleic acid test stations that, no matter where you are in the city, it will just take 15 minutes for you to go and get tested.

So... yes, my green health code now also displays the information about my most recent nucleic acid test. I haven't tried scanning any of these "location codes" yet, because look at me, I'm in lockdown, of course I am not going anywhere.

And yeah maybe we should have concerns about big data and tracking. I'm too exhausted to be concerned about that right now, though...


Hongqiao Train Station

During the lockdown, there have been very very few trains available for people who want to leave Shanghai. But now, since we're on our way to "back to normal" or whatever, they've started adding more trains to the schedule, and I've seen news about what it's like for people trying to make their way to Hongqiao train station.

Like, imagine if you were just like "hey I'll go to Shanghai for a few days" back in March, and then you get stuck here for months. That happened to lots of people, and they've been trying to get out, and it's good that now there are more train tickets available for them.

Also, for people who leave Shanghai and go to other cities in China, they are required to do a 2-week quarantine when they arrive at their destination. And often there is other red tape to deal with, like you need to get your apartment management to agree to let you leave, and you need to get the apartment management at your destination to agree to receive you. (I've heard that when people leave wherever they've been locked down, the apartment management often requires them to sign something saying they won't come back during the lockdown.)

(Okay I've been using the term "apartment management" in all my posts about lockdown- what I mean is 居委会, which is typically translated to English as "neighborhood committee." I have been translating it as "apartment management" because I felt like that was easier to understand- but I do feel that something gets lost in translation because the concept itself is a Chinese thing that other countries don't have. What I'm talking about here, the 居委会, is the smallest unit of local government. It's the little local government in charge of one single apartment complex.)

Some links about what it's like getting to the train station and leaving Shanghai:

Leaving Shanghai, At Last (May 19)

Giving Rides to People on Their Way out of Locked-Down Shanghai (May 18)

Police help people without accommodations at railway station (May 20) This is from SHINE, so they spin it to try to convince the reader that everything is fine, but anyway, it does show the reality that people arriving at Hongqiao station are sleeping on the streets.


Some of our neighbors went shopping

In my May 17 post, I said that it was announced in our apartment group chat that 2 people from our building would be allowed to go out for 3 hours on May 18, and another 2 people would be allowed to go on May 20.

So, some of our neighbors signed up, got the passes from the apartment management to allow them to leave, and did a rapid antigen test the day of. The rest of us in the group chat made a big list of things we were hoping they could buy for us at the grocery store. Also, everyone in the chat was like "Be careful!" and "Spray everything with disinfectant!" and "Wear gloves!"

So, they got to go see the outside world, good for them.

Still no word on when, like, *everyone* will be allowed to leave. We have been a "precautionary area" for a LONG time, but we are still all stuck here.



Good news, it was announced in our apartment group chat that tomorrow there will be medical staff coming to our apartment complex to vaccinate people. Tomorrow, the vaccines will only be for people over 60, but on some other date, probably soon, they will allow younger people to get them too.

The Shanghai government was publishing news articles about "It's really really important for elderly people to get vaccinated!!!!!!!" like, weeks ago (see my April 22 and May 3 posts), and now this is the first time I'm actually seeing it happen on the ground. I think maybe they started the vaccine push in some of the areas of Shanghai farther away from the city center, which were closer to having 0 covid cases. Now it's finally coming to us.

Also, they're saying that after you get vaccinated, for the next 24 hours you shouldn't do a nucleic acid test. I think this is because the vaccine could cause a false positive. (idk if that's actually true? The Chinese vaccines use the inactivated virus.)

To be clear, this is NOT the first time China is rolling out covid vaccines. Oh goodness, no, nothing like that. I got my first Sinopharm dose a year ago. Most Chinese people got vaccinated last year, and then 6 months later we were all encouraged to get a booster. But the vaccination rate for older people is still too low, and during this outbreak, most of the people who died of covid were older and unvaccinated, so it's now urgent to get vaccinated, in a way that's completely different from the initial vaccine rollout. There was never any real danger before- we had 0 covid cases in Shanghai almost every day. But now it's like, wow, you actually *can* get covid. It's never been like that in Shanghai before.

Hooray, vaccines!


Ongoing things

I realized that there are a lot of things that have been happening frequently during lockdown, which I've mentioned in my blog posts but I haven't given you a clear picture of which things are still happening and which ones have stopped. So let's give an update on these:

  • Mass testing. Well yes, in every blog post I have put an update at the beginning, about which days we did nucleic acid tests (performed by a team of doctors who come to our complex) and which days we did self-testing. At this point, we basically do nucleic acid testing every 2 days, and self tests on the other days. (There has not been a positive case in our complex for several weeks now.)
  • Food deliveries. There are a few restaurants and grocery stores that are open, that you can order things from on the delivery apps. Very very few. So we are still getting almost all our food from group buying. (Most of this group buying is just organized by neighbors who take it upon themselves to start a group buy- but also some is organized by our apartment management.) We can get plenty of food from group buying- but the problem is you never know when exactly it will be delivered, and you don't have many choices. (We're lucky we live in a complex with good group-buying options, and our apartment management is allowing it. We have seen lots of posts on WeChat about people not being allowed to do group buys, because their apartment management is being jerks about it.)
  • Package deliveries. Yes, people are receiving packages. But still, a lot of shipping companies aren't able to deliver to Shanghai at all. So maybe like, 10% of things you buy online will actually come. (Okay I'm a math person so I have to clarify, obviously if we wanted to be really accurate, we would have to define 10% of *what* and arriving within *what timeframe*. I am not trying to be accurate, I am trying to help you understand what I mean by saying we always see packages being delivered, and yet most things you order online don't come forever and ever. Just imagine it like, you buy something on a shopping app, and there's a 10% chance you get it. The reality is more complicated than that- like, you'll have better luck on Jingdong than Taobao- but more or less that's what's happening.)
  • Free food from the government. We are still getting free food every few days. Sometimes it's a large bag of rice, sometimes a bottle of cooking oil, sometimes some bread, and a few days ago we got a really really nice box of fresh vegetables. We have SO MANY bags of rice and bottles of oil, you guys. Overall, I'm happy with the free things they've given us. This is organized by the subdistrict-level local government, so different places in Shanghai are getting different things. Some places are getting much better free food than others.
  • Number of covid cases. It's been going down. Now we have less than a thousand new cases in Shanghai every day. And every day, they also tell us how many cases of "community transmission" there were- sometimes it's 0, sometimes maybe 1-5. I don't really pay much attention to the exact definition of "community transmission" (it's something like, number of new covid cases among the population which is not classified as being in "locked down areas") because I don't believe it has much relation to when we can actually get out of lockdown.
  • Conditions at makeshift hospitals. Good news: Because the number of covid cases has gone down, a lot of the makeshift hospitals have now closed. I haven't seen any WeChat posts recently about people being sent to really terrible locations. Really, the problem was caused by lack of resources, and now that they've had time to solve the problems, and also fewer covid patients, it's not as bad anymore.
  • Censoring. Also good news, recently it seems like the censoring has calmed down. A few weeks ago, there were many times I would click on a link or video shared on WeChat, and then just see "This content is not available" because it had been censored. That hasn't happened to me recently, so it seems like there must be fewer terrible things happening, that the government is trying to cover up. (Or, they've gotten better at covering them up? Uh...)
  • Neighbors helping each other. Yes, we continue to help out our neighbors. If there's something you need, but can't buy it anywhere, you can ask in the group chat to see if anyone has it. Also I have seen posts on WeChat about hair stylists doing haircuts for their neighbors.
Anyway, that's the situation here. I wonder if I'll be allowed to go out any time soon...



Sixth Tone

COVID Cubism (May 18) Artwork and other things that people in China have made out of the ABSURD number of rapid antigen tests we're required to do.

Leaving Locked-Down Shanghai Is Hard. Returning Is Harder. (May 18)


Next post: Lockdown Diaries: We Are Allowed Out! (a little bit)

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