Xi’an residents complain of food shortages as lockdown drags on

All 13 million residents of Xi'an were placed under lockdown eight days ago

Residents in the locked-down Chinese city of Xi’an said they were struggling to find enough food, despite Beijing insisting Thursday that there were now adequate supplies.

China has followed a strict “zero Covid” approach involving tight border restrictions and swift, targeted lockdowns since the virus first surfaced in a central city in late 2019.

The country’s commerce ministry told reporters on Thursday that Xi’an’s 13 million residents — who were placed under lockdown eight days ago — had “sufficient” access to essential supplies.

State TV showed footage of workers in hazmat suits sorting eggs, meat and vegetables into plastic bags, before delivering them to residents door-to-door.

Local officials said at a later press conference that they had handed out hundreds of tonnes of free food and supplies in recent days.

But they also asked residents to exercise “understanding and tolerance” as they smooth out oversupply “discrepancies”.

“At present, Xi’an is speeding up its preparations and coordination [for delivering supplies],” said local official Zhao Li.

“There will be some discrepancies in the timing of supplies during this process, which also varies in practical terms from place to place.”

Locked-down people inside Xi’an contacted by AFP, however, said they were struggling to secure enough food.

Resident Ada Zhao said she knew of some individual housing compounds that had received deliveries, but said it was “still a very small number.”

“In our community, we’ve not received any notices on deliveries of life essentials and how to collect them.”

She said soaring demand for online grocery services was meant there wasn’t enough stock or drivers, with people “struggling to get the food they need on time”.

‘Keep alive’

Another woman who spoke to AFP said she hadn’t had received any food, but had managed to receive a delivery from the local convenience store two days ago.

“I have rice at home… I have several eggs left — one per meal, one meal per day,” she said.

While low compared to outbreaks around the world, daily infections remained high in Xi’an by China standards, with another 155 infections reported on Thursday.

There have been more than a thousand cases in the city since December 9.

Other tough curbs to control the city cluster have included ordering all cars off the road, telling students to remain in their dormitories, and multiple rounds of mass testing.

One resident who didn’t want to be named told AFP 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.

Supplies were low and the vegetables were not fresh, she said, adding that by Thursday police had been stationed outside the block.

When the lockdown was announced last week, the rules allowed one resident out every two days to stock up on supplies. This was then reduced to every three days, before residents were no longer allowed out at all.

Online some residents reported having received food parcels, but many more complained they were still struggling.

“I heard friends in other districts got their food delivered, but not here in Weiyang district,” a resident surnamed Wang told AFP, saying she was working through all her supplies.

“I live on…. a bowl of porridge everyday — just a little bit to keep alive.”


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