Volunteers check orders for daily necessities in a supermarket on Jan. 24 against the wish lists of residents in quarantine in Tonghua, China. Xu Chang / Xinhua / Sipa USA

Residents of a city in northeast China have complained on social media that they have run out of food and medicines due to a strict coronavirus lockdown, sparking an online riot and apology from local officials.

Tonghua, a city of around 2 million people in Jilin Province, has been on lockdown since January 18 due to increasing Covid-19 infections. All flights, trains, buses and taxis have been suspended and residents are not allowed to leave their homes.

Under the restrictions, people have to order their daily necessities online and have them delivered to their residential buildings by volunteers, according to the city government.

However, Tonghua residents complained on Chinese social media last week about delays in delivery, resulting in shortages of food, medicines and powdered infant milk.

The game: The residents’ posts sparked a wave of criticism against the Tonghua government. Some accused local officials of disregarding people’s livelihoods in order to achieve disease control goals.

Following the backlash, city officials admitted on Sunday that daily supplies were “out of date and unavailable” for some residents, citing a labor shortage.

“The local party committee and the local government sincerely apologize,” Deputy Mayor Jiang Haiyan said at a press conference.

On Sunday evening, some residents posted photos online of parcels of vegetables they had received, but many others said they were still waiting.

The Tonghua government said Monday that vegetables had been delivered to nearly 67,000 households and more than 7,000 officials and volunteers would continue to distribute food to the rest of the residents.

Strong contrast: Some social media users pointed out the differences between the strict lockdown measures in Tonghua and the more humane quarantine policies in some major cities.

In Shanghai, the government was commended for allowing residents of “medium risk” neighborhoods to quarantine their pets in government-designated hotels.

Beijing city government said it would allow any household to leave a family member at home to look after pets if ordered to go into quarantine.


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