Shanghai still grappling with Covid-19: post-lockdown trauma

The wounds are far from being closed. “These past two months have been a painful experience. Our large family lived in a very small apartment. We were afraid of being quarantined. Today we can walk down the street but I can’t relax the anxiety is still there“Since June 1, life has returned to normal in Shanghai, after two months of confinement.

Resumption of social life

Big atmosphere, however, on Sunday in this trendy district of Shanghai. The café terraces are full, groups of young people savor this moment of rediscovered freedom. Like Nicholas, in his thirties: “This is the first time that I go out to dinner with my colleagues. I’m very happy ! I really missed places to meet and socialize. I’m pretty outgoing and being home alone for two months had a huge impact on my lifestyle. I couldn’t go to restaurants, bars or chat with friends to relax“.

A joy of living which nevertheless conceals a certain malaise. Nobody manages to forget this long period of very tested confinement: two very long months under absolute surveillance. And in a China where criticism involves risks, speech is now free on a very sensitive subject. This young shopkeeper dares to express his anger: “Is there something to celebrate? Just have the right to eat in a restaurant? We are very unhappy with the government’s approach. There was no need to confine the city. In other countries people don’t wear masks, but here we still have so many restrictions. I don’t feel comfortable, I feel very depressed. And I live with uncertainty every day.”

“We have no sense of freedom, sense of being protected. The normal approach is to have humans and the virus coexist. I support the Western approach.

Businesses have not reopened with confinement
Businesses have not reopened with confinement

©Radio France
– Sebastien Berriot

Localized restrictions

A few kilometers away, in the district of the former French concession, a portion of the street is protected by barriers with a guard who monitors the area. Here, just a few days after the reopening of the city, several hundred inhabitants have been reconfigured and they are still not allowed to go out.

Among the elements concerned, a small coffee lounge. The manager, Iris, no longer has access to her business. Annoyed, she decided to close permanently. “Due to the epidemic, the financial chain has been broken“, she explains, “even though the landlord helped me a lot during the two months of closing by using my rent, i still decided to sell. I have no choice, I no longer have enough money. During the confinement, I tried to save this shop by doing online courses, for example, to teach people in the community how to make good coffee, but it was difficult.”

The restaurant industry is one of the most affected sectors. French chef Paul Pairet is at the head of several of Shanghai’s most popular establishments. He does not hesitate to say that the zero Covid policy clearly jeopardizes his business. The reopening at the beginning of June did not last very long: “It lasted ten days and then it just stopped as suddenly as it had been released. This is what is very complex for us, this impossibility of knowing what we can do, what we must do. Normally on our activities, we have a visibility of one year, so you imagine when we have a visibility of one hour…

No tourists at the moment, but Shanghainese crowd in front of the monuments and seem to want to rediscover their city. There are crowds every night on the famous Bund on the banks of the Hungpu River where the municipality has installed a huge luminous panel, where it thanks the population for their support and cooperation in the fight against the epidemic.

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