BEIJING: Overworked, underpaid and thoroughly fed up, Wang’s troubles deepened even further when authorities abruptly locked down the delivery driver’s Beijing apartment block earlier this month.
Officials in the Chinese capital have doubled down on the country’s hallmark zero-Covid policy in recent weeks, one of an array of cities to impose sweeping shutdowns, mass testing and teleworking mandates as caseloads have hit all-time highs.
Wang is not alone in feeling frustrated.
The ruling Communist Party’s uncompromising zero-Covid strategy – now in force for about three years – has stoked anger and resentment, with widespread and sometimes violent protests kicking off across China’s major cities.
Pandemic fatigue has been on the rise for some time, as a recent lightening of virus curbs has coincided with record infection tallies, prompting a patchwork of onerous restrictions in multiple major cities.
China is the last major economy wedded to a zero-Covid strategy, but maintaining relatively low numbers of cases and deaths has constrained its economic recovery, disrupted supply chains and hammered employment.
“I HAVE NO CHOICE”
Demand for deliveries has soared under the tightening curbs as millions of housebound urbanites have turned to an army of low-paid couriers – mostly migrants from other provinces – to supply takeaway lunches and grocery orders.
But this time the restrictions have crept deep into places where drivers live, shutting many inside without pay and forcing others to choose between having a place to sleep and earning enough money to survive.
Wang, who scoots back and forth across a wealthy financial district delivering food orders for internet giant Meituan, said his housing compound was cordoned off on Nov 7 after two COVID-19 cases were discovered.
Desperate not to lose his income – about 250 yuan (US$34) a day – the 20-year-old broke lockdown rules by vaulting a fence to make his shifts, sneaking back in under cover of darkness.
“I have no choice. If I don’t make money, I can’t pay rent,” said the native of the industrial northern province of Shanxi.
“Lots of delivery guys don’t have anywhere to live at the moment,” he told AFP outside a deserted office block on a cold winter afternoon last week.
“I’m really dissatisfied with the Chinese government, because other countries aren’t strict about Covid any more,” he said.
“We’re going to such great lengths … and I don’t feel it’s necessary, because nobody is dying from it.”
AFP withheld Wang’s full name to protect him from potential repercussions for breaking lockdown and criticising the state.