Officials call for calm as groceries hard to come by in China's Xi'an

Takeouts, supermarkets and restaurants are shuttered, while online grocery stores are running out of food.
By Xue Xiaoshan, Qiao Long, Hsia Hsiao-hwa and Fong Tak Ho
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Officials call for calm as groceries hard to come by in China's Xi'an A truck sprays disinfectant on street, amid a Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown in Xi'an in China's northern Shaanxi province, Dec. 31, 2021.

Authorities in the northern Chinese city of Xi'an have called for calm, as many in the locked-down city of 13 million took to social media complaining that they were unable to get sufficient food supplies after being ordered to stay in their homes.

"It's the last day of 2021, and the ninth day of lockdown in Xi'an," Weibo user @The_sun_is_the_yolk wrote on Friday. "It has been really hard to buy groceries these last few days."

"Offline stores are all closed, we're not allowed to leave the compound, all the takeouts are shut, while the online stores are sold out," the user wrote. "I don't want to say too much ... but too many people are really suffering."

User @Tangerine_peel_ginger_and_straw said their 94-year-old mother was in Xi’an.

"There really have been problems ... subsistence supplies can't get delivered to residential compounds or to the homes of ordinary people," the user wrote, warning local officials: "You low-level jobsworths -- I'm collecting evidence."

"God bless the people of Xi'an and help my relatives there through this difficult time!"

Xi'an resident Zhang Xiaojuan said community workers and police are preventing people from entering or leaving.

"There are people standing guard at the entrance of my building, and people are lining up for PCR tests," Zhang said. "You're only allowed to go downstairs when you are called."

"I've done 10 PCR tests. They said to begin with that we'd be allowed to go out every other day [to buy food], but I've only been allowed out grocery shopping once, and they haven't let me go out since then," Zhang said. "We've run out of oil, but the guards at the gate are pretty fierce."


Residents queue to undergo nucleic acid tests for the Covid-19 coronavirus in Xi'an in China's northern Shaanxi province, Dec. 29, 2021. Credit: AFP
Residents queue to undergo nucleic acid tests for the Covid-19 coronavirus in Xi'an in China's northern Shaanxi province, Dec. 29, 2021. Credit: AFP
A man-made problem'

A woman surnamed Liu who lived through the first pandemic lockdown in the central city of Wuhan in 2020 said there appeared to be strong parallels with her experience.

"It's just like at the very start in Wuhan," Liu said. "That was even more frightening; it felt like the end of the world, and was sheer hell."

"Nowadays, nobody is that scared of the virus, but locking down a city is an administrative act; a man-made problem," she said.

"Maybe today, the centralized supply chain will kick in, and officials will start going into residential compounds to deliver supplies," Liu said.

Xi'an residents have also reported finding it hard to access medical treatment, with one woman, Xu Yan, due on Jan. 1 with placenta previa turned away from several clinics and hospitals in Xi'an due to living in a "high-risk" COVID-19 district.
Xi'an resident Wang Xia called on local people to complain about the decision on social media.

"Things are always so extreme in this country; everyone should go online to appeal [to the authorities] about this," Wang said.

Wuhan campaigner Zhang Hai said the lockdowns in Wuhan and Xi'an were inhumane.

"They have brought in a number of inhumane policies in order to achieve control, which means that this pregnant woman has nowhere to turn, as if her life and those of her unborn child don't matter," Zhang said.
Propagandists step in

Another pregnant woman, Liu Ruoyun, was quoted as saying that she was turned away the Xi’an International Medical Center Hospital near her home, because she lives in a "medium-risk" area.

She called an ambulance on Dec. 28, but the hospital was unwilling to admit her. She eventually found a hospital in Chang'an district to help her deliver, media reports said.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) censorship propaganda machine appeared to have sprung into action by around Dec. 28, with no posts on the "Hard to buy groceries in Xi'an" hashtag visible after that date.

An official city government news release showed volunteers processing large quantities of fresh produce in a bid to supply them to local people under lockdown, with the post garnering mostly positive comments about "feeling the party's love," with photos of newly arrived supplies.

Yet the most-liked comment under the official news release, from user @I_study_history_in_Xi'an, merely read: "The refrigerator is running low. I hope I can buy vegetables soon."

The groceries hashtag appeared to have been replaced by Friday with a more positive, #GoXi'an hashtag about a mass-organized attempt to deliver emergency supplies to people's homes.

Despite the lockdown, the number of domestically transmitted infections in Xi'an exceeded 1,200 during the Dec. 9-30 period, amid official warnings of a further wave of transmission during the festive period, which lasts until Lunar New Year in February.

Meanwhile, computer chip-makers warned that manufacturing could be affected by the lockdown in Xi'an.

"Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, we have decided to temporarily adjust operations at our manufacturing facilities in Xi’an, China," Samsung said in a statement on its website. "This decision was made in accordance with our commitment to protecting the health and safety of our employees and partners, which remains our top priority."

"We will also take all necessary measures, including leveraging our global manufacturing network, to ensure that our customers are not affected," the company said.

Meanwhile, Nasdaq-listed Micron Technology said its output of DRAM chips from its Xi'an facility had been affected by the lockdown.

"We are also working with local government officials to identify solutions that will enable us to minimize impact of the situation and maintain operations at the site safely," it said, but it warned: "New or more stringent restrictions impacting our operations in Xi'an may be increasingly difficult to mitigate."

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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