BEIJING: Tan Hann Syn, who is a Malaysian businessman in Shanghai, has been busier than usual on his phone these days.

He has only one task at hand: to source for food.

Tan, 41, has been confined to his apartment in Shanghai for almost a month now due to a lockdown as Covid-19 cases had been found in his neighbourhood.

Since then, he has discovered the meaning of the Chinese idiom “a neighbour near you is better than a far-off relative”.

“It is common for residents to share food. We ‘barter trade’, we help each other pull through the difficult moments,” he said.

He explained why he was so focused on his phone.

“I have to grab any food products on sale at the stores. Stock is limited,” he said.

He said the purchases, which are slightly higher in price, come in bulk or “blind bags”, hence Tan usually ends up getting stuff that he may not need.

Food prices, he said, had skyrocketed earlier but had gone down a little lately.

Tan said the sudden lockdown of his residential compound on March 14 caught him unprepared.

At one point, his family of three was down to their last bowl of rice and two eggs.

His six-year-old daughter had wanted to have eggs then.

“I stopped her, saying I have to save them for emergency,” he laughed, adding he kept the eggs for a week and only cooked them when he managed to grab a carton of 30.

Later, he also managed to get a 10kg packet of rice.

Tan said his mother-in-law, in her mid-60s, and her housemate survived on cucumbers and onions for five days until he sent them some food last Saturday.

“The elderly people are not tech-savvy, so it is hard for them to grab anything online.

“Although they are just 5km away, I could not do anything,” he said.Tan described his lockdown experience as unique and interesting although he had begun to feel depressed.

“Of my 13 years in Shanghai, I have not seen an empty road. It has always been a dynamic city.

“All I can hear now is the wailing siren from a police car or ambulance,” said Tan, who is also the secretary-general of Shanghai Chapter of Malaysian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China.

Shanghai consul-general Syed Farizal Aminy Syed Mohamad said his office has been in close contact with Malaysians in Shanghai.

He noted that two Malaysians were infected early this month but have since stabilised, health-wise.

“Earlier, there was some confusion with people calling to ask for details of the lockdown and other issues but things have become clearer and better now,” he said.

He advised Malaysians to work closely with their residential building management or neighbourhood community, whom they could seek immediate help when needed.