Nintendo Switch for noodles: Locked-down residents in Chinese city of Xi’an swap goods for food

Some residents of the Chinese city of Xi’an have been forced to resort to swapping household items for food as its 13 million residents remain under a strict two-week lockdown to fight Covid-19 .

Social media posts on China’s social media platform Weibo showed residents of the northern city trading gadgets like cell phones for food like rice and bread rolls.

The situation continues to deteriorate for millions of residents in the city, which has been subjected to the most stringent measures since December 23 to stem the latest pandemic outbreak.

The government’s zero Covid policy has confined residents to their homes who cannot even leave to purchase supplies.

Authorities have scrambled to provide free food to households, but over the past week Chinese social media has been inundated with calls for help from distressed residents.

Videos and photos on Weibo showed people trading cigarettes for sanitary napkins and Nintendo Switch consoles for noodles, cabbage and small piles of vegetables.

A local named Wang said Free Asia Radio: “People exchange stuff with others in the same building, because they don’t have enough to eat.”

He reported that a man traded a smartphone and tablet for rice.

Xi’an has reported around 1,600 cases so far. Although the number is still low compared to many countries, China recorded the highest number of cases in the last week of 2021 since March 2020, when the virus was first reported.

The latest wave is due to the delta variant, and China has reported a total of 102,841 cases and 4,636 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

A Weibo user said, “Helpless citizens have arrived in the age of barter – potatoes are being traded for cotton buds.” Another described it as a “return to primitive society”.

Anger grew after a widely circulated video showed guards attacking a man who had gone out to buy food for the family. The guards subsequently apologized.

Meanwhile, Xi’an authorities have said they are correcting the lack of food and health care supplies.

Two senior Communist Party officials from Yanta district, where half of the city’s cases have been registered, were sacked and the deputy mayor was made responsible.

China is preparing to host the Winter Olympics in just one month. People were only asked to enter and leave Beijing if they absolutely needed to. Athletes, officials and journalists enter an anti-pandemic bubble as soon as they arrive and will stay there during matches.

Additional reports by agencies

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