Before Guan Zejun’s apartment block was locked down on March 27, he bought enough noodles and bread to last a week. He figured that if he ran out, he could always order in. After all, this was Shanghai.
Soon afterward, however, the authorities locked down the whole city of 26 million in a bid to contain China’s worst coronavirus outbreak since the pandemic began.
On Friday, Mr. Guan, a 31-year-old programmer, posted a picture on the social media platform Weibo of his nearly empty box of supplies and pleaded for government help.
He said he last received a grocery delivery from the local authorities about a week ago. It contained a dozen eggs, a few cabbages and carrots, some rapid testing kits and some traditional Chinese medicine.
“I’m used to the feeling of being hungry now,” Mr. Guan said in an interview. “I never expected that in the 21st century, in a big city like Shanghai, I would experience what my grandparents’ generation lived through, of not being able to fill my stomach.”
One week into the lockdown of China’s largest city, many residents are, like Mr. Guan, calling urgently for help in securing food, since quarantine rules have shut down grocery stores and restaurants. That has left people dependent on government deliveries and online ordering, both of which have been unpredictable. Mr. Guan said he joined neighbors in trying to order lunchboxes in bulk, often without success.
Shanghai on Friday announced a daily record of more than 21,000 new cases, bringing the total since last month to more than 130,000. To combat the outbreak, officials have introduced harsh restrictions on movement, in keeping with China’s policy of trying to eliminate local transmission.
The lockdown was hurriedly announced, and many residents did not stock up on supplies beforehand. Online grocery deliveries are still technically available, but the stores sell out of stock early each morning, many residents say. Local authorities have deployed teams of neighborhood workers to distribute food, but residents say the deliveries are sporadic or delayed.
At times the administration of the lockdown has been chaotic, causing a potential political problem for the government, and many residents have turned to social media in desperation.
It is unclear how widespread the food shortages are, and they appear to vary by district. The difficulties have cut across class and nationalities in Shanghai, which has a large expatriate population.
Many residents have also reported no problems securing food. But officials have acknowledged some issues, announcing on Thursday that they would lift restrictions on some wholesale markets and delivery workers, and would recruit more volunteers to speed up grocery distribution.
Chen Tong, Shanghai’s deputy mayor, said in a news briefing on Thursday that food supplies were sufficient but delivery companies were facing logistical difficulties because of pandemic control policies.
“This has created a phenomenon of it being difficult for basic supplies to arrive at people’s doors,” Mr. Chen said, adding that officials were making “every effort” to ensure delivery.