China scrambles to keep cities in virus lockdown fed

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Chinatopix

People wearing masks buy foods at a supermarket in Hangzhou in east China's Zhejiang province, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. China's communist leaders are striving to keep food flowing to crowded cities despite anti-disease controls, to quell fears of possible shortages and stave off price spikes from panic buying after most access to Wuhan was cut off Jan. 23. Food stocks in supermarkets ran low shortly after Beijing imposed travel curbs and extended the Lunar New Year holiday to keep factories, offices and other businesses closed and the public at home, attempting to prevent the virus from spreading. (Chinatopix via AP)

BEIJING – The manager of the Wushang Mart in Wuhan, the locked-down city at the heart of China’s virus outbreak, says its shelves are loaded with 50% more vegetables and other food than usual to reassure jittery customers.

Communist leaders are trying to keep food flowing to crowded Chinese cities despite anti-disease controls and to quell fears of possible shortages and price spikes following panic buying after most access to Wuhan was cut off Jan. 23.

Employees at the Wushang Mart wear masks and protective suits. Customers wash their hands with disinfectant and are checked for the virus's telltake fever, said the manager, who would give only her surname, Lu.

“It is normal for people to worry about supply, but we explain there will be enough,” Lu said by phone.

Food stocks in supermarkets ran low shortly after Beijing imposed travel curbs and extended the Lunar New Year holiday to keep factories, offices and other businesses closed and the public at home in an attempt to prevent the virus from spreading.

That also kept trucks off the road, disrupting supplies of food to markets, feed to farmers and poultry to slaughterhouses. As the shutdown of Wuhan expanded to cover cities with a total of 60 million people, villagers set up their own roadblocks to keep outsiders and possible infection away.

This week, a Cabinet official acknowledged vegetable supplies were uneven and some “daily necessities” were sold out.

“These problems are being coordinated and resolved,” Lian Weiliang, deputy chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, said at a Feb. 3 news conference in Beijing.