Authorities in a north-eastern Chinese city have come under fire for their poor handling of a recent spike in COVID-19 cases

Davies
People in PPE gowns, face masks, and goggles pack food into polystyrene boxes in a brightly-coloured supermarket.

Authorities in a north-eastern Chinese city have come under fire for their poor handling of a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, as anger mounts over a shortage of food and medication during lockdown measures.

Key points:

  • Tonghua’s entire population will be tested for the third time since mid-January
  • Residents have reached out to people on social media to obtain everyday essentials
  • China’s daily case numbers have prompted fears of another wave

The latest outbreak in Tonghua city, in the northern province of Jilin, saw local authorities impose strict measures last week, resulting in residents being banned from leaving their homes.

More than 190 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Tonghua since China’s north-eastern outbreak began earlier this month, and residents in the lockdown zones are now desperate to find food and essential goods.

Chinese state media Xinhua News Agency reported on Sunday that 14 Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials in Tonghua were held accountable for ineffective outbreak prevention.

The city’s Health Commission has today launched a new round of COVID-19 testing for the city’s entire population of about 2.3 million residents — the third time since mid-January.

Tonghua has been one of the most discussed topics on Chinese social media Weibo, with hashtags related to the topic racking up more than 1 billion views.

Despite the heated discussion, local authorities, via the CCP’s official mouthpiece the People’s Daily, have denied that the city is facing scarcity.

“At present, the city has sufficient reserves of basic living materials [and] procurement and transportation channels are open in order to meet residents’ basic needs,” a statement read.

But some Weibo posts have said some families have gone without food since Friday.

Some residents have also been posting their addresses to obtain critical medicines and other items, because they say supermarkets and pharmacies have been shut in order to prevent virus transmission.

“The elderly in my family haven’t taken their blood pressure medication for five days,” Tonghua resident Wang Suxin wrote on Weibo last night.

Citizen-led goodwill stymied by shuttered postal service

You view a lone person in full PPE, pushing a trolley in a supermarket littered with signs celebrating the Lunar New Year.

Some Tonghua citizens say they were not given sufficient notice about the lockdown.(Xinhua via AFP: Xu Chang)

Ms Wang lives in Jinchang village, which is about 5 kilometres from the city.

She told the ABC that her family hadn’t received any food deliveries and they only had enough food supplies to last another two days.

However, Ms Wang said she was more worried about her 80-year-old grandmother’s need for blood-pressure medicines, adding that her health has been unstable in recent days.

“You can live without food, but you can’t live without medicines,” Ms Wang told the ABC.

Ms Wang said she was waiting for community volunteers to send the drug this afternoon, after her post on Weibo had attracted nearly 2,000 likes and hundreds of comments.

“I received many phone calls from Weibo users who asked me if I can receive express delivery,” she said.

“But post services were shut [in mid-January].”

China braces for one of the largest case spikes since March

Workers line up for medical workers to take swabs for the coronavirus test at a large factory in Wuhan.

China has ramped up its testing in response to the latest case rise.(AP: Chinatopix)

China’s COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise, prompted by a spike in previously asymptomatic patients.

The total number of daily confirmed cases in mainland China rose to 124 on January 24 from 80 a day earlier, the National Health Commission said in a statement.

This has prompted fears this could turn into one of the highest wave of new infections China has seen since March 2020.

You view a map of China with its north-eastern provinces around Beijing highlighted.

China’s latest daily case rises are clustered in the country’s north-west, which is one of the world’s most densely populated places.(ABC News: Jarrod Fankhauser)

Of the new 124 infections, 117 are local infections. The north-eastern province of Jilin accounted for 67 cases — all but three of whom were previously asymptomatic patients who were reclassified as confirmed cases after developing symptoms.

The provinces of Heilongjiang and Hebei reported 35 and 11 new cases respectively.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 45 from 92 cases a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in mainland China is 89,115, while the death toll remains unchanged at 4,635.

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