In early 2020, many speculated that the death of whistle-blower Li Wenliang , a doctor reprimanded for alerting his friends about a new Sars-like illness in Wuhan, might be China’s Chernobyl moment. The public outrage over Li’s death seemed to herald a reckoning on a par with that over the nuclear disaster in the former Soviet Union. But months later, after containing the Wuhan outbreak, surveys showed that public support for the Chinese government had grown. In the two years since, the government hailed the country’s low case numbers as a show of the superiority of China’s political system. Mobilising the entire nation’s resources to achieve a goal demonstrated the system’s advantage over Western democracies, it argued in a message that was well received by the Chinese public. Then came Shanghai. Officials there told residents it would take four days to screen everybody on each side of the Huangpu River for the Omicron variant. They thought it would not take long to find all the cases, given Omicron’s shorter incubation period. But three weeks later, the cases continue to mount and the residents of one of the country’s most affluent cities are facing food shortages. People are getting up at 6am to race on e-commerce apps to get basic supplies and some are coming together in buying groups to get necessities for their neighbourhoods. But this frantic app scramble has been criticised by officialdom. In a video that went viral on social media, a cadre in a neighbourhood in Putuo condemned residents for buying fruit online, saying the movement of people and contaminated packages spread the virus. The Putuo cadre is not alone in his views. While some are wondering whether communal bathrooms and the mass testing could be worsening the spread, many Shanghai residents believe Covid-tainted packages and food deliveries are responsible. It is a variation on the past outbreaks when Chinese officials pointed the finger at contaminated international mail. If packages are the problem then lockdown is no longer the most effective way to curb the spread. The anger of one city is unlikely to cause a major political crisis for the Communist Party, but it erodes public trust and praise for the zero-tolerance policy over the past two years. Changing the zero-tolerance policy may be risky politically, especially before a leadership reshuffle at the party’s national congress this year, but keeping it is no less dangerous.