Residents of Xi'an, a city in central China, complained about the shortage of food and essentials, as the city went into lockdown since Dec. 23 due to a surge of Covid-19 cases.
People not allowed to leave to get food
On Dec. 26, authorities further tightened its restrictions on the city that has a population of about 13 million residents as the country detected the highest number of cases since March 2020.
Only one member from each household was allowed to leave their home and buy basic necessities.
Supermarkets, convenience stores and medical facilities continued to operate, but other businesses in the city had been ordered to shut.
However, shortly after the lockdown was announced, authorities implemented even stricter lockdown restrictions on Dec. 27, which basically prevented people from leaving their homes except to test for Covid-19, the BBC reported.
This inadvertently led to a slew of problems.
Skirmishes with local police
Soon after, several residents went online with their complaints that they were lacking food supplies as the deliveries promised by the government were delayed.
Some residents also said they ordered groceries online, but there was no sign of getting the groceries delivered.
"I haven't been able to get any vegetables for days," one user said on popular social media site Weibo, adding that the online order was put in four days ago.
Another user said that the allocation of food and supplies had been uneven in the city.
"The district I'm based in hasn't got anything. We are told to group up and order together. The price is very high as well," the user wrote, as reported by the BBC.
According to the Financial Times (FT), one resident claimed that they had to resort to sneaking out at night and buy food from shop owners.
"Buying food is like being a thief," the resident said.
The lack of food supplies has resulted in skirmishes between frustrated residents and local officials.
A video circulating online showed a man in Xi'an arguing heatedly with the police over the issue.
西安某小区被封了13天，大批警察抵达小区门口维稳，不许买菜，等着饿死。 pic.twitter.com/5UeUaI1zcL— 方舟子 (@fangshimin) December 30, 2021
In the video, a woman can be heard saying, "We've been locked down for 13 days. Residents' basic life can't go on. We queued for three to four hours [to buy vegetables]. But they don't allow it to be sold anymore."
She repeated, "Just that bit of food, but they don't allow it to be sold."
In another video that went viral, two anti-epidemic workers were seen hitting a man.
Dozens of buns fell from the man's bag amid the scuffle.
But there was also this video of a resident being beaten by anti-epidemic workers after he allegedly left his community to get steamed buns because he was so hungry. The two community workers have reportedly been detained by Xi'an police. pic.twitter.com/lxHv6zl1gF— Manya Koetse (@manyapan) January 1, 2022
According to FT, police said they had detained the two workers and fined them RMB200 (S$42.47) each.
Public sentiments towards the way the local government has been handling the issue have spiralled down rapidly.
One resident wrote on Dec. 18 that she had complete confidence in the ability of local officials to handle the outbreak, only to post desperate pleas for help 10 days later, according to SupChina, which cited a Weibo post.
"I will pay whatever it costs to just have some food," she wrote. "Those false assurances about sufficient food supplies screwed me over."
Authorities pledged to improve access to residents
In response to the residents' complaints, Lin Jianwen, a top official from the city, pledged that local authorities will improve the access of supplies to the people.
"For next steps, we’re going to continue to strengthen the quality, price and supply of goods for people, and increase our caring and support for special groups," Lin said, as reported by FT.
Lin also added that the government was giving out bags of vegetables to residents for free.
On Weibo, several videos that showed anti-epidemic workers bringing food to residents have gone viral as well.
For instance, the following video showed workers in personal protective equipment forming a line to pass bags of groceries to the residents.
Xi’an, China ⚠️— Gabriel Hébert-Mild™ (@Gab_H_R) January 1, 2022
Lots of unconfirmed chatter. pic.twitter.com/bg8XVGfR5y
Another video on Douyin (China's version of TikTok) showed a household receiving free groceries that were delivered to their house, and their gratefulness towards the government.
Free grocery delivered to residents in Xi'an during lockdown pic.twitter.com/C1HhMEgYzy— 来都来了 (@SecondRingSZN) December 29, 2021
However, some residents posted pictures of the missing vegetables they were supposed to have received.
While many Xi'an residents are posting photos of the vegetables they received, there are also those who are posting about the vegetables they still did not receive. 11th of day of #xianlockdown. pic.twitter.com/gmPjx2uWNX— Manya Koetse (@manyapan) January 2, 2022
Lack of delivery personnel
The state-backed news agency, Global Times (GT), reported that local authorities said that the city has a sufficient supply of food and necessities.
However, the major challenge is delivering the goods to residents.
According to GT, residents said there was a shortage of deliverymen and vehicles as employees of local logistical firms were also under home quarantine.
Vehicles were also not allowed to use the roads or enter neighbourhoods without prior approval.
Follow and listen to our podcast here
Top image adapted via Twitter & Weibo