SHANGHAI: Months after Shanghai suffered a brutal lockdown to stop the spread of Covid, the virus is beginning to worm its way virtually unchecked through the megacity’s 25 million people.
Hospitals are struggling to cope with the number of infected patients, pharmacies are turning away customers empty-handed, businesses are closing because staff are sick, most schools have closed and public transport use is plummeting .
At Tongren Hospital, one of Shanghai’s largest public hospitals, doctors in the intensive care unit were using the hallways to manage the overflow of seriously ill people on Wednesday. Outside a so-called fever clinic, several dozen visibly ill people were forced to wait in the cold. Several pharmacies near the hospital were no longer allowing people to enter, saying they had run out of cold and fever medicines.
Healthcare workers described an increasingly dire situation where too many patients and staff are falling ill. Cases also increased after the city stopped requiring people to present negative PCR test results before entering a hospital.
Daniel, a medical worker at a public hospital, said the city was not well prepared for such a dire scenario. A doctor at a private hospital in Shanghai who told Bloomberg News a week ago that all was calm said the outlook had deteriorated. “Shanghai is starting to look a lot like Beijing in terms of infections,” he said.
The Chinese capital suffered the initial blow as China abruptly pivoted from its strict Covid Zero policy allowing the virus to enter unchecked. The turnaround from a single case lockdown to minimizing the Covid threat has sparked a wave of infections that is spreading rapidly across the vast country, with government services to factories hampered by outbreaks.
China appears to be trying to hide the scale of the assault, censor social media and redefine Covid data. According to Airfinity Ltd, a London-based analytics firm, there are likely more than a million infections and 5,000 deaths every day. He estimates that two peaks will occur in China: one in January and one in March.
A cancer specialist at a public hospital in Shanghai said she was told all doctors should work in the emergency room because she was overrun with feverish patients and many colleagues were sick. While the number of absent workers at her own clinic meant she could not afford to transfer, the hospital threatened to punish doctors by stripping them of their bonuses if they did not agree, a- she declared. The specialist avoids eating, drinking and going to the toilet at work to limit her chances of catching Covid.
For city residents, the worsening outbreak is a painful reminder of the misery – and futility – of the two-month lockdown, which led to food shortages in one of China’s wealthiest cities. .
“We are now repeating what we went through during the city lockdown: lack of delivery capacity, no medicine, very busy hospitals, children being sent home,” said Peter Hu, an automotive company engineer and father of a 2 year old boy. . “Thinking about all of this, I’m so angry that our time during lockdown was totally wasted.”
Shanghai’s economy shrank nearly 14% in the second quarter as the financial and commercial hub’s lockdown shuttered factories, dampened consumer spending and disrupted operations in the world’s largest port. The lockdown was lifted in early June.
This time around, many residents are choosing to stay home – either because they are infected with Covid or because they are trying to avoid it. The metro operator halted services due to a drop in passenger numbers and staff illness.
Over the past week, Shanghai Metro usage is down 51% from the same period in 2019, according to Bloomberg analysis of transit data. That compares to a month ago, when metro ridership was 18% lower than the same period three years earlier.
Shops are closing. At Art Park shopping centre, not far from Tongren Hospital, popular bistro Baker & Spice told customers it was no longer serving food as the cooks all had Covid.
Hu, the car company’s engineer, has been living in a hotel near his office for a week to avoid potentially infecting his family. So far, Hu has tested negative, but he is losing patience.
“Lately, I keep asking friends who are infected if their symptoms are mild,” he said. “I think I am actively infected by a friend with mild symptoms and this terrible life can be over.”

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