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Shanghai locks down in an attempt to curb COVID-19 cases


Shanghai is locked down tight. Restrictions started March 28 in an attempt to curb a rise in COVID-19 cases and were supposed to last five days.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

RASCOE: You may have seen this video, reportedly of a drone flying over the city of 26 million people, telling residents to stay inside. We wanted to get a sense of what it's like there, so we've reached out to Rebecca Kanthor. She's the Shanghai correspondent for Plastics News, which covers the global plastics industry, and she joins us now. Welcome to the program.


RASCOE: So first, give us an idea of what the city feels like now. In your household, like, how are things? And, like, if you need to leave the house, like, what do you do?

KANTHOR: Well, inside my house, it's very noisy (laughter) because I have two children. So...

RASCOE: Oh, wow.

KANTHOR: ...And they don't like to be inside all the time. If you have a pet, then - I've seen and I've talked with friends who have created these - they call them DIY nature toilets inside their homes. So they, like, bought a patch of grass. They collected some old leaves as a place for their dogs to...

RASCOE: Do their business.

KANTHOR: Yeah, do their business.

RASCOE: Yes, do their business. Yes (laughter). Yes, yes.

KANTHOR: I was, like, getting to this, like - this is going down a road I don't want to go down (laughter).

RASCOE: I mean, that in itself sounds extreme. But, like, there are some serious reports of, like, breakdowns of distribution of food and supplies. Do you have enough supplies that you need?

KANTHOR: I was lucky to have time to prepare for this lockdown. Now, there's people in other parts of Shanghai that went under lockdown with just a few hours to prepare. And so for some people, it's very difficult to access foods. Deliveries are not happening. You cannot just walk out and go to the store. I'll tell you how I've been getting food. A friend of mine told me about a shop that was secretly open in the middle of the night from, like, 10 o'clock until 5 in the morning, because the police are outside of her door during the daylight. So she doesn't dare sell during the daylight. So, you know, I'm texting her at 11 o'clock at night, like, hey, you know, do you have anything? You know, what have you got? And so, you know, I put in an order. I found a delivery guy that would be willing to go and pick it up and deliver it to me. And then I had to, like, sneak out in the middle of the night to get my delivery.

RASCOE: Oh, wow. Could you get in trouble for that? Or is it - like, what would happen if people found out you were going out to get the food?

KANTHOR: If police see you, you could get into trouble, yes. You could get into trouble. But what people are afraid of is they're afraid of getting taken away to one of these quarantine centers, which are really not pleasant.

RASCOE: Wow. And, I mean, there have been this controversial policy of, like, separating children who test positive for the coronavirus from their parents. My understanding is it's been relaxed. Like, have there been other adjustments from authorities?

KANTHOR: Well, the - there was a statement put out on Wednesday. The Shanghai government said that they would make some exceptions for special cases. They didn't say that they would let all children who test positive be accompanied by a parent. They said they would, you know, make adjustments in certain cases. I don't know how many people that's going to impact. I do have a friend who - her daughter was separated from her for five days in the hospital. And, you know, that's a very upsetting experience to not be able to be with your child and to not be able to know what's happening with your child.

RASCOE: Wow. In the beginning, we played sound of this drone telling people to stay in, presumably because there are people who are upset about having to be locked in like that. Like, how long can this go on? Like, when you're looking at - talking to your neighbors and stuff like that, like, how frustrated are people getting, and how long do you think this can last?

KANTHOR: Well, people are very frustrated. And, you know, they might not - not everybody is going outside and yelling and, you know, being publicly upset in that kind of way. But people are definitely - on social media, in chat groups - are definitely voicing their frustration because, you know, Shanghai is a really big city. It has this reputation for being a very progressive city. And until this outbreak, I think nobody really thought that Shanghai would ever lock down in this way.

RASCOE: Rebecca Kanthor is Shanghai correspondent for Plastics News and also contributes to our fellow public radio program, The World. Thanks so much for being with us.

KANTHOR: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.