France probably needs a new lockdown, government adviser says

Volunteers check orders of daily necessity goods at a supermarket according to wish lists of residents in quarantine in Tonghua, China, on January 24. Xu Chang/Xinhua/Sipa USA

Residents of a city in northeast China have taken to social media to complain that a stringent coronavirus lockdown has left them short of food and medicine, triggering an online uproar and an apology from local officials.

Tonghua, a city of about 2 million in Jilin province, has been locked down since January 18 amid rising Covid-19 infections. All flights, trains, buses and taxis have been suspended, and residents barred from leaving their homes.

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

However, Tonghua residents complained on Chinese social media last week that there had been a delay in deliveries, causing a shortage of food, medicine, and infant milk powder.

The backlash: The residents’ posts ignited a wave of criticism against the Tonghua government, with some accusing local officials of disregard for people’s livelihood in order to meet epidemic control targets.

Following the backlash, city officials admitted Sunday that the delivery of daily necessities is “untimely and unavailable” to some residents, citing a shortage of manpower.

“The municipal party committee and the municipal government express their sincere apologies,” Deputy Mayor Jiang Haiyan said at a news conference.

On Sunday night, some residents posted photos online of vegetable packages they 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.

Stark contrast: Some social media users pointed to the disparities between the harsh lockdown measures in Tonghua and the more humane quarantine policies in some major cities.

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

The Beijing municipal government said it would allow each household to leave one family member at home to take care of pets if they are ordered to go into quarantine.

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