Strict Covid Lockdown In Chinese City Xi’an Forcing People To 'Starve'

by Bhaswati Guha Majumder - Dec 29, 2021 05:06 PM +05:30 IST
Strict Covid Lockdown In Chinese City Xi’an Forcing People To 'Starve'  Covid-19 in China.
Snapshot
  • Local officials told 13 million residents of the city Xi’an that they can only go out for medical emergencies or mass Covid-19 testing rounds.

    The city residents have claimed that they are facing starvation as they are not allowed to go outside to get food.

    Initially, one member of each household was allowed to go shopping once every two days.

China’s strategy to control Covid-19 cases has been a topic of discussion since the country imposed the first lockdown in Wuhan in 2020 that ended after 76 days. Now, millions of Chinese residents are living under yet another strict lockdown in the city of Xi’an. These people have claimed that they are facing starvation as they are not allowed to go outside to get food.

Local officials told 13 million residents of the city on 27 December that they can only go out for medical emergencies or mass Covid-19 testing rounds. But initially, before the harsh regulations were implemented, one member of each household was allowed to go shopping once every two days.

The new harsher measures have been implemented as part of China’s strategy to protect the cities from the virus, despite the fact that only 175 Covid-19 daily instances were registered in Xi'an on 28 December. Meanwhile, according to reports, residents of Xi'an have gone to social media to express their "starvation" as a result of the scarcity of food available to families.

For example, one person wrote on the Chinese social media site Weibo: “I’m about to be starved to death. There’s no food, my housing compound won’t let me out and I’m about to run out of instant noodles, please help!”

While it was said that food will be delivered to people's houses in the "controlled areas" during the next few days in order to prevent the spread of the virus, another individual wrote on social media saying: “I don't want to hear any more about how everything is fine. So what if supplies are so abundant - they're useless if you don't actually give them to people.”

Such incidents aren’t new in China. Earlier this year, reports revealed that after Tonghua, a small city in China’s northeastern Jilin Province went into lockdown, the city's 300,000 residents also faced a similar situation, after being sealed inside their homes.

At that time a person went on to social media and wrote that after two days without food, she was on the verge of starvation. She wrote in a WeChat group among residents in a housing community, “Can someone please spare some bread or instant noodles for me? Maybe you can find a way to send me food through my apartment windows. And I’m willing to pay.”

However, recent reports said that the Delta variant is believed to be behind the recent increase in Covid-19 cases in Xi'an. When mass testing revealed that a case had escaped quarantine and transmitted the illness, the Chinese city implemented lockdown measures last week. So far this month, Xi'an has reported 810 Covid-19 cases, making it China's largest outbreak since the virus emerged in Wuhan.

On 27 December evening, restrictions were tightened even more when the fifth round of mass testing began. As a result of the testing, cases have been found all throughout the city and among all age groups, raising fears that the true number of cases is far higher than what has been discovered.

On the same day, vehicles were also prohibited from being on the roads unless they were being used to control the virus or to protect people's health. As per the authorities, anyone who breaks the regulations faces 10-day police detention and a fine of 500 yuan ($78). Additionally, anyone who does not obey the guidelines while mass Covid-19 testing is taking place will be imprisoned and fined.

Meanwhile, The Sun reported that according to Dongyan Jin, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong, the mass disinfection of public spaces is unnecessary given the low risk of people contracting the virus from outside surfaces or the air because there are so few people outside. Instead, he believed disinfection of indoor surfaces, especially in places visited by infected people, was required.

Cases have also been found in the Guangxi region, as well as the provinces of Zhejiang, Guangdong and Sichuan, in addition to Shaanxi, where Xi'an is located, according to reports.

In early December, China detected the first case of the Omicron Covid-19 variant—which is claimed to be more concerning than Delta—in the northern city Tianjin, a city located almost 134km away from Beijing. Considering the fact that Beijing is preparing to host next year’s Winter Olympics, China is expected to maintain its "zero Covid" policy at least until the beginning of the sporting event.

But China’s “zero Covid” policy has been criticised by many experts and recently the scientist who warned the world about the Omicron variant, Tulio de Oliveira, said this strategy will not work against the highly transmissible mutant variant.

On Twitter, the scientist, who is also the director of the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI) in South Africa, wrote on 25 December: “China will have great difficulty with #omicron and zero covid policy. They may need@ to join the rest of the world with mitigation strategies. #China should not punish its public health officials or citizens or foreigns because a more transmissible variant.”

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