Jin Dongyan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong, said Shanghai’s educated, connected population was more primed than people elsewhere in China to be skeptical of the measures, especially given the lesser severity of the Omicron variant. Chinese propaganda has often emphasized the dangers of the virus.
In Shanghai, “many people have a good understanding of the disease and of the virus, and also of what is happening in other places” that have retreated from the harshest restrictions, Dr. Jin said. “They just don’t feel that this is going to work.”
Jeremy Wu, a 26-year-old Shanghai native, now wonders if he should have moved back to China from Australia, where he was in graduate school.
Mr. Wu returned to Shanghai in the fall of 2020, believing that the city would be one of the few places in China where officials would keep cases low while avoiding excessive restrictions. When his friends in the northwestern city of Xi’an were locked down earlier this year, he felt relief at being in Shanghai.
“While sympathizing with my friends, in my mind I was thinking, ‘Thank god this would never happen to Shanghai,” Mr. Wu said.