Chinese authorities locked down more cities on Jan. 18 in an effort to curb the spread of the CCP virus. Several others were upgraded from medium- to high-risk for virus spread—meaning residents were required to take nucleic acid tests for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Meanwhile, food prices have skyrocketed, especially in cities under lockdown. Prices were at least 50 percent higher than in cities not under strict quarantine policies.
On Jan. 18, Xinle city in Hebei Province announced that all supermarkets, grocery stores, and shops must close. Residents wouldn’t be allowed to leave their homes.
The city has a population of about 517,000.
Local authorities didn’t explain the reason for the lockdown, nor announce new COVID-19 cases.
One local said in an online post on social media platform Weibo that a CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus outbreak escalated quickly, causing the city to go under lockdown. The netizen added that many medical staff and patients at the Xinle Chinese Medicine Hospital were infected, but authorities hadn’t announced them.
The Epoch Times couldn’t independently verify the information; the netizen’s post was shortly removed from the internet.
An employee at a hotel near the hospital told the Chinese-language Epoch Times in a Jan. 18 phone interview that his facility was serving medical staff who had arrived from other cities to assist in treating local COVID-19 patients.
An employee at another local hotel said his venue had been converted into a quarantine center several days ago, and that no hotels in the city were currently open to the public.
Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces haven’t announced new infections in recent days. But Mr. Lei, who lives in Shaanxi, said local authorities forcibly quarantined many locals who were suspected of carrying the virus.
Lei added that residents were required to take COVID-19 tests several times, while authorities prohibited people from buying medicine for treating colds and coughs unless they presented a negative COVID-19 test result.
“One test costs 120 yuan ($18.48). You have to pay by yourself,” Lei said.
A villager living in Gaoliying, Shunyi district of Beijing, similarly said that anyone who presented symptoms similar to COVID-19 would get taken away and quarantined by authorities.
She said she didn’t know about the overall outbreak situation in the city, as she can only get information published by state media.
Cabbage is widely available in the winter and is generally the cheapest vegetable—costing about 20 cents yuan (about $0.03) per pound. Since December 2020, the price of cabbage had increased dramatically. It cost about four yuan (about $0.62) per pound in many major cities.
The price of eggs has also gone up from 2 to 4 yuan ($0.31–$0.62) per pound to 5 to 8 yuan ($0.77–$1.23) per pound.
State-run media reported that prices have skyrocketed due to a bout of extremely cold weather, which made it more costly to plant leafy greens; quarantine policies that have made transportation more difficult and expensive; and increased demand, as people wanted to stock up on food for the Lunar New Year holiday on Feb. 12.
On Weibo, Chinese netizens complained of price gouging, as some supermarkets changed their price tags at least twice per day.
With the New Year holiday approaching, Chinese media began publishing articles promoting the benefit of staying in one’s current city and not visiting family in one’s hometown—usually a part of the holiday tradition.
At least 29 Chinese provincial governments have issued travel advisories telling residents to stay in their current homes for the New Year.
In some locales, authorities hung banners with messages to discourage social gatherings.
“If you visit here and there, you are not a filial child. You would transmit the virus to your parents and be a person without any moral standard,” one banner read.
In one video posted by state-run media Wisdom Changsha on Jan. 16, a female COVID-19 patient in Shijiazhuang city, Hebei Province, was shamed for working two jobs.
The video claimed that by working two jobs—she worked full time at a local hospital and taught students at a tutoring school to make extra income—she was spreading the virus to more people. The video called her “hateful.”
After public uproar, on Jan. 17, the media outlet posted an apology and fired the reporters and editors who took part in producing the video.
On Jan. 18, news related to the woman was deleted from the Chinese internet.