Quarantined residents in Xi’an, China are bartering supplies amid ongoing concerns about food shortages. Locals have swapped cigarettes for cabbage, tech gadgets for instant noodles and steamed buns, and dishwashing soap for apples as seen in social media posts. Since December 23, about 13 million people have been confined to their homes. There have been numerous complaints on social media despite the authorities in Xi’an providing free food to households. Some residents argue that their supplies were depleted or had yet to receive them. “People are swapping stuff with others in the same building because they no longer have enough food to eat,” a resident named Wang said in a statement. Another individual, according to a news agency, sought to sell a smartphone and tablet for rice.

Xi’an is the epicenter of COVID-19’s current devastation of China, and local officials have taken harsh steps that have sparked widespread outrage on the internet. The city of Yuzhou was shut down overnight after the discovery of just three asymptomatic cases. On a recent occurrence, residents in the Mingde 8 Yingli housing compound in the city’s south were reportedly notified soon after midnight on January 1st that they needed to leave their homes and attend to quarantine facilities. The pandemic in the far larger metropolis to the west is the worst China has seen in months, as the country pursues a “zero COVID” strategy to wipe out the virus rather than trying to live with it.