FOOD SUPPLY DISRUPTIONS
Entering the first day of the hard lockdown on Apr 1, my partner and I had stocked about a week’s worth of food. On that day, we also received our first package of government rations, comprising roughly 7kg of vegetables and a whole chicken. I remember the date well because my parents had driven across the Causeway to Johor Bahru that very day – marking their first overseas trip in two years.
Over the first couple of weeks of April, people were waking up at the crack of dawn to get on grocery store apps. It was a game of fastest fingers first as the apps were overburdened by the surge in demand. Very often, one would stock up an entire cart, only to be denied the final checkout as there were no more courier slots available for the day.
I had so far been unsuccessful with making any purchases, but I had not been too concerned until Day 5. That day, while undergoing mass PCR testing within the compound, I told the manager of the residents’ committee that we would soon run out of rice if things continued as they were.
“Is it possible for us to establish a neighbourhood WeChat group to conduct bulk purchases? This is what my friends in other residential compounds are doing,” I asked her. She said she would look into it.
Later that day, I tried to use Eleme, a food delivery service platform, to order 5kg of rice for a runner’s fee of 19 yuan (S$4). The fee was about half of the cost of the rice, but it seemed a reasonable price to pay given the circumstances.
To my surprise, the order got processed. Hours later, the runner called and asked for more money. I cancelled the order. My grip over my own life is diminishing, I thought at the time. Given the uncertainty of government rations, my alternatives were to either partake in a daily battle with countless others on grocery apps or be at the mercy of opportunists engaging in black market tactics.
On Day 7, I was notified of, and invited to a neighbourhood WeChat group – volunteer-led, like most of the residential compounds in Shanghai. These unpaid individuals undertook what I thought was the work of the government. They committed themselves to daily PCR testing, long hours in PPE suits, and worked 18-hour days organising mass testings, and food sourcing and delivery for the residents.
Over the next two days, five group buys were set up. I participated in all of them, and received milk, eggs, meat, fruits, vegetables, oil and rice. The purchases took between three and six days to arrive.