Officials in coronavirus epicentre Wuhan are commandeering ambulances to deliver pork to health workers as the ongoing lockdown has left the city short of lorries and vans.
Health commission leaders in the virus-hit city of 11 million insist all precautionary measures are being taken to disinfect and ensure a “clean and safe” supply of the staple food in a statement released just one day after two senior officials were sacked for transporting pork in the back of a dustcart.
An image showing frozen pork being loaded onto the back of an ambulance bound for the very heart of the COVID-19 outbreak was seen more than 160 million times on Chinese social media.
In the picture, an ambulance bearing the signage of Wuhan Xinzhou Orthopaedic Hospital, and which presumably once transported sick patients, can be seen collecting pork from a small lorry.
As the image began to trend and concerns over public health grew, the Xinzhou District Health Commission scrambled to release a statement on 12th March.
The image in question was taken on 1st March, and the ambulance transported a consignment of pork for front-line health workers, the press release said.
The district, where 1,071 confirmed cases had been reported as of 8th March, said there were no civilian transport vehicles available due to the ongoing lockdown and travel restrictions.
The statement said the ambulance in question was used for the transport of supply only, and that staff were adhering strictly to disinfectant and other disease-prevention guidelines to ensure a clean and safe supply.
A spokesman for Wuhan Xinzhou Orthopaedic Hospital told local media: “After the outbreak, all of our ambulances were requisitioned by the emergency management office and health commission.
“They were dispatched together. Sometimes they are used to transport supplies from downtown Wuhan.
“Both our ambulances were requisitioned in January and are still being used now.
“One is being used for patients; the other is being used for supplies.
“The one used for supplies is marked Wuah Xinzhou Orthopaedic Hospital. The one used for patients is labelled Wuhan Medical Emergency Center.
“They’re parked at our hospital. The health commission and emergency management office use our vehicles and personnel.
“They call us whenever they need our vehicles. They’ve been transporting pork with it since February. It’s already been quite a while.
“They transport pork from downtown to supply the entire district of Xinzhou. They disinfect and go through all the proper procedures.”
On Wednesday (11th March), two senior officials in Wuhan’s Qingshan District were dismissed and a third was put under internal investigation after an online image showed pork being dumped out the back of a dustcart.
Residents were left outraged at the apparent lack of hygiene, with local health officials later admitting that 1,000 portions of pork on the waste disposal vehicle were meant for human consumption – and 530 had already been delivered.
Government workers later retrieved all of the tainted meat, and the batch was disposed of.
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