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Wuhan: the struggle of the confined inhabitants for food

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — “One has the impression of being refugees”: in Wuhan, the cradle of the coronavirus cut off from the world for a month, confined residents struggle to feed themselves, amidst a scarce supply, restrictions on purchase and a surge in the price of vegetables.

Her neighborhood was locked without notice: Guo Jing, a young woman of 29, is now cloistered at home.

Wuhan the struggle of the confined inhabitants for food
File AFP
Wuhan the struggle of the confined inhabitants for food
File AFP

She saw her freedom of movement gradually reduced to nothing: first, on January 23, it became prohibited to leave Wuhan, cut off from the world in the hope of stemming the epidemic, which appeared in this city of 11 million souls of central China.

Then, residents were only allowed to leave their residential complex or apartment block once every three days.

And now even that permission has disappeared: Guo Jing can no longer set foot outside and now depends on home deliveries.

“Certainly, I can live like this for another month,” she explains, referring to her stocks of pickled vegetables and eggs.

Not everyone has this chance: for the millions of Chinese trapped in Wuhan, the ban on leaving their residence raises alarming practical questions.

“When the supplies we have at home are finished, I have no idea where we can shop,” said Pan Hongsheng, who lives with his wife and two children.

Residents of this city, which has been closed for a month, were contacted by AFP by telephone and by courier.

Some communities or residences place bulk orders after supermarkets.

Nothing like in the vicinity of Mr. Pan: “Everyone does not care,” he laments to AFP. “Our three-year-old boy doesn’t even have milk powder anymore!”.

Pan Hongsheng is unable to transmit medication to his eighty-year-old in-laws living in another neighborhood. “One has the impression of being refugees,” he says, bitter.

– “We can’t choose” –

The authorities are calling for patience: “Tight control of communities is a bit of a bother to people’s lives, it is inevitable,” Qian Yuankun, deputy secretary of the Communist Party in the province, simply said to the press.

Group food purchases are soaring, organized on improvised discussion groups on WeChat mobile messaging.

Some businesses sell baskets of fresh produce by weight, provided that the orders are grouped together at the same address.

In the Guo Jing district, you can buy 6.5 kilos of vegetables of five varieties, including potatoes and cabbage, at a high price of 50 yuan (6.60 euros).

“You cannot choose what you would like to eat. Personal preferences are no longer in season,” sighs the young woman.

The group purchasing system leaves out some small communities, since supermarkets require a minimum number of orders.

“Honestly, we can not do otherwise,” says Yang Nan, boss of a Lao Cun Zhang supermarket, which imposes a minimum of 30 grouped orders. “We only have four vehicles” and a reduced workforce.

Another supermarket told AFP that it only fulfills a maximum of 1,000 orders per day.

“It has become very complicated to recruit” couriers, observes Wang Xiuwen, an employee of the store’s logistics department, indicating that he is reluctant to accept outside arms … for fear of contamination.

– Vegetables “already rotten” –

The intensity of the restrictions, however, varies by district.

A young 24-year-old woman, speaking on condition of anonymity, explains to AFP that the occupants of her building can go out, one person per household at a time, and pay delivery people directly to bring them shopping.

In other districts, supermarkets are banned from selling directly to individuals, which means relying on neighborhood committees or resident organizations capable of buying in bulk.

Thus, the David Dai residential complex, in the suburbs of Wuhan, organizes group orders at a high price.

“But the reality is horrible (…) We receive lots of tomatoes and onions already rotten”, gets angry this father of 49 years, according to which the third of the food delivered is good to throw away. His family is reduced to drying turnip peels to add nutrients to future meals, he says.

The worst is uncertainty, concludes Ma Chen, a young thirties living alone.

Without knowing when a next order will be possible and how long the restrictions will last, “I never know how much food to buy”.

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