City residents in northern China who have spent more than 40 days in lockdown have expressed growing frustration at the restrictions they face despite the number of Covid-19 cases falling.
Gaocheng, a district of Shijiazhuang city, went into lockdown on January 6 after a cluster of cases was detected in Hebei province.
The district of 800,000 residents was the worst affected area in the most serious outbreak to hit China for months. Between January 2 and February 15, Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital reported a total of 869 confirmed cases, mostly in Gaocheng.
But the number of cases has dwindled and there have been none reported since Monday.
The authorities have adjusted the risk level of the district from high to medium on February 8. Except for three townships still deemed high risk, a resident from every household should now be allowed outside for two hours a day with a pass.
But some residents complained local officials were not allowing them out or said it was difficult to apply for a pass.
Locals in Jiumen town said they had not been given any notice that restrictions had eased and had been forced to celebrate Lunar New Year in lockdown.
"I never heard about it," one resident said, adding he had only been allowed to leave his house to buy food and had been told to return as quickly as possible. "I have no money left, I don't know how to live my life," he said.
Others living in downtown Gaocheng said they only received their passes on Saturday.
The residents said the last 40 days had been tough and they had been ordered to take regular tests.
On January 9, eight residents were forcibly taken to a quarantine facility and punished for trying to drive out of town.
"I have done the test 16 times. I have not stepped out of the house for over a month." He Pengfei, a 30 years old restaurant owner living in Lianzhou town, said.
He said he has been forced to shut his business, which had already suffered from the impact of the coronavirus last year, and cannot keep up payments on his house and car and was racking up credit card debts.
China has seen sporadic outbreaks since the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic and has been using lockdowns and mass tests of city residents to keep the disease under control.
But some Gaocheng residents took to the social media platform to ask why their neighbourhood still faced such tight restrictions.
"More than 700,000 people have been quarantined for more than 40 days. After all, the people of Gaocheng also have to live!" one wrote.
"When can the lockdown be lifted? We need to go to work and pay our debts," another wrote.
Some locals complained that food prices had risen and supplies were running low.
"The price of vegetables rose at least three times," a Lianzhou resident surnamed Zhang said. "We have no income, and only expensive food is left."
"I have to work from home, I am the only employee in our company from Gaocheng, no one tells me what to do," another resident who said he could not return to his workplace in another part of the city.
"I am so confused about why the government cannot take more precise measures. The calls from the masses get no response at all," he said.
He, the restaurant boss, said he finally got a pass allowing him to leave his house on Saturday "but what's that for? I cannot work."
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