‘Starving’ residents survive on a bowl of porridge a day in locked down Chinese city as they struggle to find food despite Beijing insisting supplies were ‘sufficient’
‘Starving’ residents in the locked-down Chinese city of Xi’an are surviving on a bowl of porridge a day despite Beijing insisting there are ‘sufficient’ food supplies.
Thirteen million residents in northern Xi’an are in their seventh day of home confinement, and national health officials have called for measures to be strengthened further as China battles its worst virus surge in months.
Xi’an’s inhabitants have been complaining of food shortages on social media but while officials admitted that there had been trouble providing essential supplies, they said ‘the total supply of daily necessities in Xi’an is sufficient’.
One resident surnamed Wang said: ‘I live on…. a bowl of porridge every day, just to keep alive.
‘I heard friends in other districts got their food delivered, but not here in Weiyang district.’
One woman said: ‘I didn’t get any food delivered to me. I managed to order something from our convenience store downstairs two days ago, but not today.’
‘I have rice at home… I have several eggs left – one per meal, one meal per day,’ she said.
Another resident who didn’t want to be named said she only had enough food because she had persuaded the community manager at the gate to let her slip out to the supermarket for half an hour to get supplies.
A worker prepares food supplies to be delivered to a residential compound in Xi’an
A resident of the Chinese city of Xi’an is swabbed as she is tested for Covid-19 today. Current rules state residents may only leave their home if requested to take part in mass testing
Residents in Xi’an wait in line with multiple barrels to purchase water from a gated community in the city
Supplies were low and the vegetables were not fresh, she said, adding that by Thursday police had been stationed outside the block.
Beijing has followed a strict ‘zero Covid’ strategy involving tight border restrictions and targeted lockdowns since the virus first surfaced in Wuhan in late 2019.
But officials admitted at a press conference today that ‘low staff attendance and difficulties in logistics and distribution’ had led to trouble providing essential supplies as the country faces a resurgence in infections.
And yesterday, many residents took to social media to ask for help acquiring food and other essentials, with some saying their housing compounds would not let them out even though they were running out of food.
‘I’m about to be starved to death,’ wrote one person on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Facebook. ‘There’s no food, my housing compound won’t let me out, and I’m about to run out of instant noodles … please help!’
‘I don’t want to hear any more about how everything is fine,’ said another. ‘So what if supplies are so abundant – they’re useless if you don’t actually give them to people.’
Xi’an official Chen Jianfeng told reporters that the local government had mobilised enterprises to step up community distribution, with cadres supervising wholesale markets and supermarkets.
‘We’re trying our best to assist in the problem of staff turnout, and are issuing passes for vehicles that guarantee the supply of necessities,’ he said.
But some were still struggling with supplies.
‘How do we live? What do we eat?’ one user wrote on the Twitter-like Weibo platform.
‘Days ago, we could go out once to buy groceries but that’s been cancelled… all online grocery apps are either sold out or beyond the delivery range,’ the user added.
Pictured: A huge line of residents in a gated community in Xi’an, China, earlier today as they wait to be tested for Covid
The city stepped up confinement measures on Monday, with many residents told not to leave their homes except for virus testing – after previously being told they could go out once every three days to buy supplies.
Authorities had previously insisted that supplies remain stable as they maintain strict controls of movement into and out of Xi’an.
The city has logged over 960 domestic virus cases since December 9.
Although the surge in China is low in comparison to rampant cases in Europe and the United States, Chinese officials imposed what they have called the ‘strictest’ possible curbs in Xi’an.
Authorities have also detained at least seven people in the city over attempting to skip quarantine, disrupting order and spreading rumours, local media said.
Officials in the city on Monday said that people are only allowed out of their homes when invited to take part in a new round of mass testing, or for medical emergencies.
Previously, one member of each household was allowed out once every two days to buy food. City officials said people in ‘low risk’ areas will be allowed out to buy essentials once testing is complete and if their results are negative.
Xi’an reported 175 new cases on Tuesday, a paltry figure compared to other large cities around the world but a major blow to China which is continuing to pursue a ‘zero Covid’ strategy even in the face of more-infectious variants.
Nearby cities have also logged cases linked to the flare-up, with Yan’an – about 185 miles from Xi’an – on Tuesday shuttering businesses and ordering hundreds of thousands of people in one district to stay indoors.
Xi’an’s outbreak is being driven by the Delta variant and is believed to be linked to travel to Pakistan a week ago.
The city has been in lockdown since last Thursday when mass testing revealed a case had escaped quarantine and then spread the virus widely.
The 13million-person lockdown is also China’s largest since Wuhan was locked down early in 2020, which affected 11 million people.
Xi’an on Tuesday reported 175 Covid cases, its highest toll of the current outbreak, pushing up China’s seven-day average of cases to its highest level this year (pictured above)
On Sunday, city workers were dispatched to disinfect public spaces with residents warned not to touch anything until the chemicals had time to disperse.
Lockdown rules were then tightened on Monday evening as a fifth round of mass testing got underway.
It comes after armed riot police in southern China paraded four alleged violators of Covid rules through the streets this week, leading to criticism of the government’s heavy handed approach.
Four masked suspects in hazmat suits – carrying placards displaying their photos and names – were paraded Tuesday in front of a large crowd in Guangxi region’s Jingxi city.
Photos of the event showed each suspect held by two police officers – wearing face shields, masks and hazmat suits – and surrounded by a circle of police in riot gear, some holding guns.
Armed riot police in southern China have paraded four alleged violators of Covid rules through the streets, leading to criticism of the government’s heavy handed approach.
Four masked suspects in hazmat suits – carrying placards displaying their photos and names – were paraded Tuesday in front of a large crowd in Guangxi region’s Jingxi city
The public shaming was part of disciplinary measures announced by the local government in August to punish those breaking health rules.
China banned such public shaming of criminal suspects in 2010 after decades of campaigning by human rights activists, but the practice has resurfaced as local governments struggle to enforce the national zero-Covid policy.
The four individuals paraded through the streets of Jingxi city were also accused of transporting illegal migrants while China’s borders remain largely closed due to the pandemic, Guangxi News said.
Jingxi is near the Chinese border with Vietnam.
The newspaper said the parade provided a ‘real-life warning’ to the public, and ‘deterred border-related crimes’.
But it also led to a backlash, with official outlets and social media users criticising the heavy handed approach.
Although Jingxi is ‘under tremendous pressure’ to prevent imported coronavirus cases, ‘the measure seriously violates the spirit of the rule of law and cannot be allowed to happen again,’ Chinese Communist Party-affiliated Beijing News said Wednesday.
Other suspects accused of illicit smuggling and human trafficking have also been paraded in recent months, according to reports on the Jingxi government website.
Videos of a similar parade in November showed a crowd of people watching two prisoners being held while a local official read out their crimes on a microphone.
They were then seen marching through the streets in their hazmat suits, flanked by police in riot gear.