A coronavirus lockdown in Shanghai is forcing many of its 26 million residents to rely on group chats and shared online documents to source food and daily necessities. Horace Lu, a 32-year-old public relations professional in Shanghai, did not expect that his professional skills would come in handy for buying fresh produce. Since the phased citywide lockdown started five days ago, he has been able to purchase 2,700 yuan (US$425) worth of vegetables and meat, and 500 eggs, for himself and neighbours, with the help of basic online work tools. Lu’s residential compound is east of the Huangpu River, where the city’s first stage lockdown was partially lifted on Thursday – although most communities east of the river remained in lockdown. “Sellers in Pudong are asking for orders with minimum quantities, which means you need to pool with people who have similar needs,” he said. Shanghai lockdown puts pressure on China GDP growth, ‘uncertainties’ to come Lu uses Tencent’s Questionnaires and Tencent Docs – the Shenzhen-based tech giant’s answer to online document Google Docs – to collect information from some 60 people in a WeChat group and pass it to a food supplier. Many of Shanghai’s 26 million residents have turned to commonly used tools for crowdsourcing, to disseminate essential information and connect people needing help, as the city faces potential shortages of food supplies and medical resources amid its worst Covid-19 outbreak so far. On Thursday, Ma Chunlei, secretary general of Shanghai Municipal People’s Government, publicly apologised for providing “inadequate guarantees for people’s livelihoods in sealed-off areas”. Two widely circulated medical-related Tencent Docs, one titled “ Shanghai medical emergency help ” and another that collected information on “Shanghai hospitals, online consultations, filling prescriptions and psychological help”, were both initiated by local college students after the recent outbreak. “The city is facing a severe lack of medical resources due to the pandemic, and those who need emergency treatment are not getting enough attention,” said Hua Rongqi, a college student at the University of International Business and Economics, who created the “emergency help” online document on Wednesday night after seeing critically ill people seeking help on social media. Hua, along with more than 30 college students, call themselves “Guardians”, also a Chinese homophone for “people who protect Shanghai”. Members of the team maintain and update the online document with information such as which hospitals still offer outpatient services, and they post details of some patient cases on microblogging site Weibo to generate more attention on social media. To date the document has been viewed more than 100,000 times. Amid the mass Pudong lockdown, more than 20 hospitals in the city have closed their regular outpatient services, which has put more pressure on stretched medical resources and put the lives of residents who suffer from asthma, kidney failure, cancer and other medical emergencies at higher risk. Chinese scientists hail new ‘cheap, fast and effective’ Covid test By Friday morning, more than 500 people had logged their information on the online document, mostly cancer and diabetic patients who needed immediate chemotherapy, dialysis or other medicine. Over 30 patients have overcome their emergencies with the help of Hua’s group, according to voluntary posts on the shared document. Joyce Chen, a Pudong resident whose diabetic father needs periodic dialysis treatment, said they were having a hard time finding an alternative hospital after her father’s regular hospital suspended outpatient operations during the lockdown. “We waited two days and finally managed to get my father’s dialysis. He was itching all over already,” Chen said. “But we have no idea when and how we can get the next one.” The Pudong New Area Health Commission apologised for the “improper handling” of a first aid doctor, who refused to provide a defribrillator to a Pudong resident in lockdown, saying he needed his manager’s approval first. The patient, who was suffering from an asthma attack, later died. Before the citywide lockdown, a nurse also died of an asthma attack after her workplace in Pudong refused to take her in amid the hospital’s closure for Covid disinfection. “We do not think the government or hospitals have enough energy to take special care of this community, so we decided to do whatever we can to help,” Hua said. “We really hope [the government] can set up a dedicated rescue team after seeing this.” Lu, who has not been able to leave his residence since March 19 and is expecting a new lockdown because of a fresh Covid case in the residential complex, said he may need to rely on these “low tech” tools for a few more days. He has seen other residents use WeChat Jielong, a chat group that allows users to fill in summary information for all to see. “Everyone has WeChat, so it has a low barrier for use,” Lu said, adding that seniors may still need some assistance when using these tools. The online tools are a way of “taking things into your own hands” rather than waiting for others to help, he said.