Millions in China’s Tonghua City Stuck Indoors as Food Supplies Run Out

January 28, 2021 Updated: January 28, 2021

After the sudden lockdown of Tonghua city in China’s northeastern Jilin Province, food supplies have become a major problem for its 2.3 million residents. Due to the local government’s extreme COVID-19 lockdown measures, many residents confined to their homes are running out of food. Currently, all the food supplies are distributed and delivered to households by community volunteers. The Epoch Times spoke with some of these volunteers who revealed what the situation was like inside the locked-down city.

Tonghua has already tested all residents for COVID-19 three times so far, but many are still required to stay inside their homes, state-run media Xinhua reported on Jan. 27.

One resident told the Chinese-language Epoch Times that local authorities in Dongchang district in Tonghua began to seal off her community on Jan. 15, nearly a week before the official citywide announcement.

A college student surnamed Gao (alias) told this publication that after returning home to Tonghua for the Chinese New Year holiday, he has been doing volunteer work for almost a week. Gao revealed that after the third round of COVID-19 mass testing, residents are still stuck at home, and some with their doors sealed shut. When he and other volunteers dropped off food supplies, they first needed to remove the seals from the doors so that the residents could open their doors to take the food in. Then the volunteers would re-seal the doors before leaving the premises.

A volunteer surnamed Lin (alias), who sorts vegetables for delivery, said in an interview that people are “not allowed to go downstairs or go out” of their building, and their food is delivered by the community or neighborhood volunteers.

The Epoch Times obtained a video showing Tonghua city under complete lockdown.

Lin said that the volunteers’ movements are also restricted, as they are not allowed to walk from neighborhood to neighborhood. They are generally arranged to do deliveries around the communities they live in.

“For the volunteers who are doing logistic support and vegetable sorting like me, they have a special pass and can go out. Some volunteers don’t have a pass, so they are not allowed to leave their neighborhood and they can only work inside the community.”

He also said that the volunteers are “using their own private cars [for food delivery] because the government cannot provide any transportation.”

The food supply in the city is inconsistent, and some volunteers complained that they did not receive their meals (provided at their work stations) after working for an entire day. On Jan. 26, a volunteer in Tonghua posted a comment on Chinese social media, saying that after completing his morning and afternoon shift, the food supplies were not enough, and they did not have anything to eat. “Our team leader led us on a strike and I’m starving,” he wrote.

The Epoch Times also obtained a video showing the food distribution in Tonghua’s residential buildings and the inadequate rations that households received.

After being locked down for several days, many locals complained that they barely have enough food because they stopped getting deliveries, or the amount of food they got was not enough.

Regarding the food shortage problem, Lin said, “There is no shortage in food resources. Instead, the management is chaotic.” He believes that those who really don’t have food are young migrant workers, low income groups, the unemployed, the handicapped, and the elderly whose children are not around to help them.

Gao described what it was like to work as a food delivery volunteer. He said that when residents place an order, the supermarket gives the volunteers the order. The volunteers go to the supermarket to pick up the vegetables, fruits, and other essential supplies, and then deliver them to the residents. The customers pay for their items online.

“We usually work with supermarket chains. We start as early as 7 a.m., put on protective clothing, and start the delivery. We usually finish the delivery at 8 or 9 p.m.”

Gao continued, “When I get home and after disinfecting myself, I go to bed and fall asleep within half a minute.” Despite the risks and long work hours, he said the volunteers don’t receive any subsidies.

Gu Xiaohua and Zhang Dun contributed to this report.