China: Xi’an residents in lockdown trade for food amid shortage

China: Xi'an residents in lockdown trade for food amid shortage
Food shortage/ courtesy

In recent days, some quarantined residents in the Chinese city of Xi’an have resorted to bartering supplies as fears of food shortages persist.

Residents are trading supplies and even tech gadgets for food, according to social media posts.

Since December 23, about 13 million people have been confined to their homes and are unable to leave to buy food.

Many people have taken to social media in recent days to vent their frustrations.

Authorities have been handing out free food to families, but some have complained that their supplies are running low or that they have yet to receive assistance.

People were seen exchanging cigarettes for cabbage, dishwashing liquid for apples, and sanitary pads for a small pile of vegetables in videos and photos posted on the social media site Weibo.

A resident appears to have traded his Nintendo Switch console for a packet of instant noodles and two steamed buns in one video.

“People are swapping things with other residents in the same building because they don’t have enough food to eat,” a resident named Wang told Radio Free Asia. Another man wanted to trade a smartphone and tablet for rice, according to the news outlet.

One Weibo user described it as a “return to primitive society,” while another described it as “helpless citizens have arrived at the era of bartering – potatoes are exchanged for cotton swabs.”

Some, on the other hand, were more upbeat, commenting on how “touched” they were by their neighbors’ generosity in sharing their supplies with them.

Xi’an is at the heart of China’s current Covid outbreak, and local authorities have taken drastic measures that have sparked outrage online.

Residents in the Mingde 8 Yingli housing compound in the city’s south were reportedly told just after midnight on January 1 that they had to leave their homes and go to quarantine facilities in a recent incident.

An unverified post that went viral on Monday also shocked netizens. According to a Xi’an resident, their father died after suffering a heart attack and being denied treatment at a hospital due to the city’s Covid situation. The hospital hasn’t responded yet.

The outbreak in the city is the worst China has seen in months, as the country continues to pursue a zero Covid strategy to eradicate the virus.

Authorities moved to place a second city under full lockdown on Tuesday after three asymptomatic cases were discovered.

Around 1.1 million people in Yuzhou, a city 500 kilometers (310 miles) from Xi’an, will be forced to remain in their homes.

Almost all vehicles have been banned from the roads as of Monday evening, and all shops and businesses, with the exception of essential-supply supermarkets, have been ordered to close.

The tough measures are being implemented ahead of the Lunar New Year and the Winter Olympics, which will be held in Beijing next month.

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