DESPERATE Chinese residents brawled over food and stripped shelves as they tried to stock up on supplies before being plunged into the world’s strictest lockdown.
The city of Chengdu – home to 21 million people – has been locked down after just 157 new infections were recorded as Beijing continues to pursue its “zero-Covid” policy.
Shocking images shared by What’s On Weibo showed panicked residents scrambling for supplies in supermarkets – with scuffles breaking out over the last scraps of meat and rice.
Cars were seen stuffed with meat, vegetables and eggs as locals swarmed stores, stripped shelves and braced for the worst.
One resident said “everyone was crazily stocking up on goods” because of what happened in Shanghai when it was hit by food shortages during its lockdown.
The 25-year-old said he had been “habitually stocking up” before Chengdu’s latest measures were announced.
The city’s residents were ordered to stay at home from 6pm local time on Thursday – and everyone will be tested over the coming days.
Footage showed mile-long queues of millions of people lining up to be tested, with testing sites running 24 hours.
People have been banned from entering or leaving the city with one person from each household with a negative test allowed out each day to buy essentials.
According to state media, the start of schools’ autumn term has been halted and flights have been grounded.
It’s not clear when the draconian restrictions will be lifted.
“The current state of epidemic control is abnormal, complex and grim,” the local government said.
The authorities had initially played down talk of a looming lockdown – with cops arrested a man for “creating panic” after he warned the city could shut down.
Many users on the Twitter-like Weibo platform have criticised his arrested and branded him a “hero” for warning his fellow citizens.
China is the last major economy committed to a “zero-Covid policy”, stamping out small virus outbreaks with lockdowns, mass testing and lengthy quarantines.
Xining, the capital of western Qinghai province and home to 2.5 million people, has also ordered schools to conduct lessons online and rolled out a mass testing drive.
And China’s southern hub of Shenzhen said new restrictions would come into force from 6pm on Thursday in its Nanshan district – which hosts the headquarters of tech giants Tencent and ZTE.
Last month, travellers in the southern island province of Hainan protested after more than 80,000 tourists were stranded in a resort because of a Covid outbreak.
Shocking footage of cops cracking down on anti-lockdown protesters in Wuhan has also been shared widely on social media, showing officers beating demonstrators with their batons.