Chinese officials have pledged to alleviate food shortages in Xi’an for residents locked in their homes as the country battles its worst Covid-19 outbreak since the pandemic started in Wuhan two years ago.
Residents of the central Chinese city of 13m have complained on social media that their food stores were running low and of difficulty buying more supplies as shops have been shuttered and movement sharply curtailed.
In many parts of the city, residents are only allowed to leave their homes for mandatory Covid-19 testing and have to rely on patchy delivery services to restock.
“The stores here aren’t open, if they were open we still can’t go downstairs,” said one Xi’an resident on Weibo, the social media platform.
“All we can do is add the shop owners’ WeChats and sneak out at night. Buying food is like being a thief,” the person added.
A video of the city’s epidemic prevention workers beating a resident for leaving his apartment to buy food went viral on social media last week. The clip showed a half dozen steamed buns spilling from the man’s bag as workers shoved him.
City police on Saturday said they had detained the two workers who attacked the man and fined each of them Rmb200 ($31).
Another resident in the city complained of paying Rmb150 for a bag of vegetables, while others said they had problems obtaining medicines and other essentials.
“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 Jianwen, a top city official, said.
He added that the government was delivering bags of free vegetables to hundreds of apartment complexes.
The number of cases in Xi’an is minuscule relative to infection rates in most other countries with 122 new cases reported on Saturday. But the Chinese Communist party has treated each outbreak as a crisis as it seeks to maintain the country’s “zero-Covid” strategy.
The outbreak has infected 1,573 people in the city since mid-December and almost 96 per cent of residents have been vaccinated against Covid-19.
Some manufacturers, including Samsung Electronics and Micron Technology, have warned that the lockdown measures could disrupt their chipmaking in the region.
Officials have blamed the Delta variant for the Xi’an outbreak and are determined to keep Omicron out of the country before the Winter Olympics begin in Beijing on February 4 under strict “bubble” protocols.
Chinese authorities reported 131 new community-spread cases of Covid-19 in the country on Saturday, down from 175 the previous day.