Major Chinese city closed to contain COVID-19 outbreak
Students line up for a COVID-19 nucleic acid test at Xi’an Jiaotong University on December 17, 2021 in Xi an, Shaanxi Province, China.
Huashang Daily | China Optical Group | Getty Images
BEIJING – A major city in central China saw an outbreak of Covid-19 cases on Thursday, with local authorities using language similar to that seen during the peak of the epidemic in the country.
Authorities said the outbreak in Xi’an – a city of 13 million people – was the result of a delta variant. Mainland China has reported only a few cases of Omicron so far, while the fast-spreading species has become the dominant variant in the United States.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Xi’an is much lower than that reported by other cities abroad. But the city has also recorded an unspecified number of cases of hemorrhagic fever, a deadly disease transmitted by rodents. Local authorities note that the disease appears seasonally, usually from October to January and from April to June.
Xi’an City Council on Wednesday asked residents not to leave the city unless necessary, and ordered apartment complexes and workplaces to apply for entry and exit permits from Thursday.
Authorities said each household can only send one person every two days to buy groceries and other necessities, following some of the tougher policies announced in different parts of the country in early 2020.
The city of Xi’an has asked companies such as movie theaters and personal education institutions to cease operations and has banned dining in restaurants. Authorities have banned large-scale events, while schools have generally closed or moved classes online.
The city reported 143 confirmed locally transmitted infections between December 9 and the end of Tuesday. Authorities said late Wednesday that a second round of citywide testing had found 127 positive cases. It was not immediately clear if there was any overlap in the numbers.
The city of Xi’an accounts for just under 1% of China’s GDP, according to official data accessible through Wind Information. Electronics giant Samsung and US chip maker Micron have major operations in the city, which are: home to many research or manufacturing centers for semiconductors, aerospace and other high-tech industries.
The city also attracts many tourists for the Terracotta Warriors – an army of terracotta statues from ancient times. Located in central China more than 800 miles from Shanghai on the east coast, Xi’an is one of the last major metropolitan areas before the poorer regions in the west.
The local spread of coronavirus cases means Xi’an had a high-risk area and 40 medium-risk areas as of Wednesday. These risk identifiers influence the type of antivirus measures used, particularly to determine if a traveler is allowed to enter another city.
Meanwhile, in southeast China, a large-scale outbreak has begun to recede. From Tuesday, authorities in Hangzhou – home to Alibaba’s headquarters – have resumed low-risk status after lowering the risk level to the city’s last medium-risk areas.
According to local authorities, Hangzhou and two other parts of Zhejiang Province reported a total of 486 confirmed cases between December 5 and Tuesday afternoon. The county reported one new confirmed case of the locally transmitted infection on Wednesday, according to the National Health Commission.
The Chinese government remains vigilant to contain the outbreak, especially as millions of people usually travel to their hometowns to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which officially kicks off on January 31. The authorities mainly want to ensure safe conditions for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Which will launch on February 4th.
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