Army biscuits and luncheon meat are among the most searched items online by Chinese citizens after the government urged households this week to stock up on food and daily necessities. Earlier, the country’s Ministry of Commerce gave a notice to local authorities to ensure adequate food supply for the coming winter and other emergencies.
According to local media reports, orders for compressed biscuits – a common military ration – have soared on China’s e-commerce platforms, with some vendors running out of stock. Other trending products include rice, soy sauce, chili sauce and noodles, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Taobao website shows. The top search on JD.com is “household stockpile list.”
The notice was similar to one released in September, which told local governments to ensure food supplies and stable prices during the break at the start of October. This new appeal by the Chinese government sparked speculation that it’s linked to a widening coronavirus outbreak, which has already prompted a new round of lockdowns and travel restrictions.
The topic “Ministry of Commerce encourages households to stockpile daily necessities as needed” had over 17 million views on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social platform, and more than 5,000 people had commented on it as of 1:45 p.m. Tuesday, November 2, Beijing time. By 6:13 p.m. views had risen to more than 43 million although the number of comments had inexplicably fallen to 4,809.
State-run Economic Daily also reported that the notice was designed to make sure people are prepared for potential quarantine in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.
A list of recommended emergency household supplies issued by Jiangsu province in October also made its rounds on social media. The list includes instant noodles, bottled water, compressed biscuits and luncheon meat.
There was also concern that extreme weather could affect vegetable production and transportation. Wholesale vegetable prices had already soared in recent weeks, costing more than meat in some cases, after heavy rains drenched major producing regions in the north and flooded the top growing province of Shandong.
Delta variant hits more provinces in China
The highly-infectious delta variant is hitting more provinces in China despite the aggressive measures being taken by officials. The delta outbreak is the most widespread since the virus first emerged in Wuhan in 2019.
More than 600 locally-transmitted infections had been found in 19 of 31 provinces in the latest outbreak in the world’s second-largest economy. China reported 93 new local cases on Wednesday, November 3, including 11 asymptomatic infections. Three more provinces detected cases: central Chongqing, Henan and Jiangsu on the eastern coast.
Officials in China claim they are going all out to maintain a so-called COVID Zero approach. But the delta variant is spreading further and evaded many of the measures being done.
The drastic responses needed to wipe out the delta variant have led several other countries that had been pursuing elimination of the coronavirus, including Singapore and Australia, to shift focus and instead rely on high vaccination rates to be able to live with the virus. (Related: Taiwan’s coronavirus response caught the world’s attention–and the jealousy of a neighbor.)
Nine infections were reported in Beijing Wednesday. The total case in the current wave now stands at 38, a small tally compared to the situation in other parts of the world but the highest for Beijing since a pre-delta outbreak last January and February. Ticket sales into the city were halted for trains from 123 stations in 23 regions, officials said at a government briefing.
More than 30,000 people were also tested at Shanghai Disneyland on Sunday, October 31, after one infected person was found to have visited the attraction. Visitors were kept inside the park until nearly midnight.
The municipality of Chongqing also initiated mass testing overnight, while the city of Changzhou in Jiangsu province halted school for at least three days. Hundreds of thousands of residents in the remote southeastern city of Ruili on the border with high-risk Myanmar have been banned from leaving for months.
China’s top health expert, Zhong Nanshan, is confident the country can contain the current outbreak in a month’s time, according to an interview with state media CGTN.
Despite the global trend of countries learning to coexist with the virus, Zhong defended China’s approach, which has been criticized for its impact on the economy. While the restrictions necessary to control the virus are costly, opening up the country and allowing the pathogen to spread would exact an even steeper price, he said.
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