Chinese Covid-19 lockdowns: Jilin residents vent anger over food shortages

Holly Chik
·3-min read

A deputy mayor in a city in northeastern China has apologised after residents complained about a lack of food and essentials during the lockdown imposed to contain the latest coronavirus outbreak.

Some residents in Tonghua in Jilin province, a city of more than 2 million people that entered a lockdown last Monday, vented their frustration on social media over a shortage of groceries, a rise in food prices and a lack of medicines.

One posted on the Twitter-like microblog Weibo: “There are 50 packs of veggies for 1,000 people. Supermarkets are open with stock but we are not allowed to buy anything. The hotline is set up but no one answers the phone.

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“We have no option but to seek help online. We would not complain after starving for just one or two days. We didn’t have enough time to stock up after the sudden lockdown announcement.”

The criticism triggered an apology from the local government, which said efforts to tackle the virus outbreak had left it short of personnel.

“I sincerely apologise on behalf of the government for not being able to deliver daily necessities in time for our citizens and for causing inconvenience to everyone’s lives,” Tonghua’s deputy mayor Jiang Haiyan said at a press conference on Sunday.

“We will do our best to improve the distribution capacity and supplement the supply of materials for citizens,” she said, adding that 800 volunteers were working to distribute food.

Jilin reported 67 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, 56 of them in the city of Tonghua, taking the province’s total for the current outbreak to 273 known active infections.

More than 30,0000 residents in a district of the city classified as a high-risk area have been confined to their homes since Thursday.

Later on Sunday, Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily quoted officials as saying the city would finish delivering supplies that night to 8,600 households with low incomes and elderly people living alone. The city was set to mobilise 7,000 officials and volunteers for deliveries and had set up the 24-hour hotline, its report said.

The report assured residents that the city had enough food supplies, including vegetables, meat, milk and eggs, and said the government would deliver bags containing enough vegetables to last them five days, sold at half the normal price.

Yet criticism continued to flood in on social media. One post, alongside a photograph of a bag of provisions including a Chinese cabbage, onions, carrots, potatoes and fuzzy melons, read: “The original price is 70 yuan [US$10] and it was sold for 40 yuan. The amount of vegetables is not worth the price.

“The report said the supply of meat, eggs and milk is sufficient and there is no shortage of supplies. But where are the meat, eggs and milk? There are only vegetables in the bag, and what is provided should match what is said.”

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