Life in Shanghai during the pandemic – From a Japanese point of view (part 3)

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This is Hideki Miyazaki of Netmarks Shanghai.
Netmarks Shanghai has been providing IT infrastructure services mainly for the Japan originated companies that are also doing businesses in China. Many of our customers are already doing business with UNIADEX, Ltd., so we also strive to offer the same Japanese quality services here in China.
This blog article is Part 3 of how the life is during and after the lockdown in China.
The information written here is as of June 10th, 2022. For the latest information, please refer to the appropriate website including Japan consolate website in China.
There are also other blog articles related to the article here:

So, the long-lasted lockdown was released at midnight of June 1st, 2022. As some of you might have seen it on the news in Japan, a lot of people went out to the city despite the late-night hour. People looked like they were venting out the stress they felt & it was like a festival where people drank and put-up fireworks. Me? I was already in bed by then.
To be exact, there were some districts which occasionally allowed people with negative test results to go outside their houses since mid-May. How can I forget, in the evening of May 27th, I also got a permission to go outside for the first time in 2 months. I obtained the permit to go outside at the apartment management office & eagerly went out carrying several eco-bags. I saw that the flowers alongside the streets welted & a lot of trash and fallen leaves were on the street. Small shops and restaurants near-by were all closed. The city looked lonesome as there were only a very little traffic and few people walking.
I felt a bit of perspiration as I walked through the streets in the early-summer weather. I reached the shopping mall I wanted to go to; however, I was told I needed a ticket to go inside. Even though the shopping mall was only a 10 minutes' walk from my apartment, no tickets were distributed to us. So, I ended up going home empty handed. Despite that, the world outside felt fresh & I enjoyed the 2 hours permission to go outside.

The permission to go outside was obtained at the apartment management office.
City with no one walking around.
The season shifted from having Cherry blossoms to Hydrangea during the lockdown.

Even after the release of the lockdown, PCR tests within 72 hours were still required in general to the residents of Shanghai. Without having a proof of a negative test result, I could not go inside of a building nor use the public transportations. To enter a building or a station, I had to use my smartphone to read the 2D barcode displayed at the entrance. As the government is in charge of the system, anyone who got close to an infected person got grounded at home & quarantine procedure had to be taken in the district of where that person lived.

Movable PCR test center in the city
PCR test results can be viewed in the mini program using a smartphone

In the evening of the release date on June 1st, I finished work and went out to the city. It felt so good, and my cheeks naturally got loosened. Less than 1/3 of the restaurants were open. Due to a governmental regulation, only the take-away of the food were allowed, but I saw some privately owned restaurants secretly letting their customers eat inside. A lot of people were enjoying food and drink at the terrace seats outside. Because of such situation, I felt nervous that the number of infections will increase soon again.

Terrace seats of a BBQ restaurant filled with people
Supermarket shelves started to get filled again.

Political measures being too extreme & Policies changing too frequently - Information is either not disclosed, disclosed too late or too fast.

At first, the lockdown was supposed to take 5 days only. That announcement itself was made only a day before its start. Although Shanghai government denied having a city shutdown at the beginning, a lot of people run out to the market and some shops ended up in chaos. As the number of infections increased during the lockdown, the duration got extended. While the extension had a legitimate reason, it disturbed me that there was no clear standard specified for lifting the lockdown.
Every time I heard a rumor that the lockdown may end next week, I got excited but only to end up in disappointments. My anxiety was filled to the max not knowing when the lockdown would be over. The date City of Shanghai announced the release was only on May 30th. It wasn't a gradual lift as the cars were now allowed on the streets & all the public transportation such as metro and bus were in full operation at once.
During the lockdown, as the online delivery persons got locked out of their houses once they went outside, they put up a tent under the bridges to live in. There were also some people coming to Shanghai from other areas of the country - they lost their jobs while also losing places to stay. Because of the sudden announcement, there were many things which could have been prevented if known earlier.

Impact to the economy

There was a shocking news of the automotive industry which is now a major part of businesses for China. It reported that the registrations of the new cars for April 2022 was zero. The reason was of course the lockdown, but it is such a drastic drop form the 26,311 cars being registered for the same month last year. Since the lockdown was extended to May, it is probable that number of car sales will also be zero for May. Shops and construction sites were also closed for 2 months, so the damages made to other industries such as construction, apparel, and food would also be serious.
On the other hand, the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics made a report that the consumer price index went up 2.1% compared to last year. They say that the increase was due to having the supply being stabilized while the measures against COVID was making a good progress.

Disparity among the areas

Just like how I was not able to enter the shopping mall without a ticket, the amount and the frequency of the government distribution varied greatly among different parts of the city. Some of the areas were permitted to go out more often than other areas and vice versa. Thus, the disparity among the areas were quite apparent.

Things which came in handy

  • Cooking tools and condiments
    I rarely cook (mainly frying something) on a regular occasion, but cooking was a necessity during the lockdown. I was so grateful for the rice cooker to have warm rice, vegetable peeler to easily peel off the vegetable skins, and a pair of scissors to cut food. Without the peeler, my hands would have been filled with scars. For the condiments, having some cooking oil was a must. Without being distributed some, I did not have any stock of oil at home. So, when I made some fried vegetables, it easily got burned and it tasted bitter. I was thankful I at least had some soy sauce, salt and pepper. I am now preparing to have more variety of condiments for the next lockdown to come.
  • Frozen food, instant food, and freeze-dry food
    For a man living alone, frozen and instant foods were a savior. Due to the culture here in Shanghai, you have a variety of frozen dim-sum food such as Gyoza and Nikuman. I'm grateful my apartment came with a microwave oven. When I was busy at work, I had some freeze-dry vegetables added to instant noodle for lunch. Freeze-dry food came in handy as they also had some nutrition.

    I regret not having more stock of food. If I had months' stock of dry noodles, pasta and rice, I probably felt more at ease. During the long-term restricted phase, eating chocolate and drinking coffee or tea eased me a lot. I should be careful of not eating and drinking too much, but I wished I had more food stock. I paid a premium for fresh vegetables on the internet & regretted many times after having them go bad. Still, I was eager to have them.
  • Jumping rope & yoga mat
    I heard many people claim that they've lost physical strength and gained weight after not being able to exercise much after staying inside. I realized how much exercise I was getting from simply going out. After I started living in Shanghai, I purchased a smart jumping rope (which connects to my smartphone to record the amount of exercise to an applet) & used it every day to also relief my stress. I also purchased a standard yoga mat, so I did some simple stretches at my place. This may be the reason why I did not gain any weight.
  • Socializing with neighbors
    The apartment I live in has many people who came from outside of China including myself. On a sunny day, people usually go out to the public space of the apartment and start having some tea. Although my English was not so fluent, chatting over about anything reduced my stress. I got to meet people from various countries including New Zealand, Germany, United States, Taiwan and such. We even shared things needed as we became more in unity. Without having the lockdown, I would not have had a chance to meet them. So, it was a good opportunity for having a good communication.
  • Remote wok environment
    From a security point of view, it is risky to save any important documents on a local PC. Yet, documents must be used for performing the daily tasks. Our company has developed a VPN to connect to the office server from outside. This allowed me to work even during the lockdown. External hosting service is used for the e-mail system. I highly recommend deploying Remote Work Environment not only, but including VPN.

Trouble at the end!!

In late May, my smartphone power went bad. No recharge was being made even if I connected a charging cable. This is the reason why I only have few photos for this blog article.
It's crucial not being able to use a smartphone in China. Everyday communication, payment, PCR test history, tax registration and everything else depended on smartphone applet and sub functions such as WeChat and Alipay.
I had another smartphone which I brought from Japan using Japanese carrier line. I was able to use this smartphone to have communications and get PCR tests. I was relieved it didn't turn into a major deal, but it's dreadful to think about not having alternatives during the lockdown. If you are going to China, I recommend you prepare 3 smartphones including one for Chinese carrier and another for Japanese carrier.
After the lockdown, I purchased android based smartphone. But, Japanese was not a part of the language choice & I was not able to use any Google related services nor install any Japanese applications. Afterall, I was living in China.
With this article, I hope you got to have an idea of what it was like during the lockdown. Maybe this helps for you to be prepared for the next lockdown.
For the next blog article, I would like to share some useful information for living in Shanghai.
There are also other articles related to the article here:

Netmarks Shanghai can support your company build a remote work environment (BCP) using VPN, remote desktop, asset management, endpoint security, cloud deployment and such. If a BCP measure is ever needed, we will be happy to be on your side. Contact us here.

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Has an experience of managing an open style call center and the engineers in Japan. The tasks at Netmarks Shanghai are to manage the engineering quality, develop new clients, and to discover new business commodities. Eating and walking are my favorite activities. I stroll around my apartment on the weekends & even travel some distance to discover popular places in Shanghai.