Ancient capital the site of recent outbreak . . .
Xi'an, an ancient capital city in northwestern China, has imposed a strict lockdown on its 13 million residents and rolled out city-wide mass testing for COVID-19 since December 22. The city has experienced community outbreaks since December 9, with new Delta-variant infections nearing 200 at their peak. Though this infection rate is much lower than current or past outbreaks in Canada and elsewhere in the world, Chinese authorities have been responding to sporadic flare-ups with intense and sweeping containment measures. The current lockdown in Xi'an is one of the country's largest since the initial wave of COVID-19 infections shut down the city of Wuhan in early 2020.
Local officials criticized for mismanagement . . .
Complaints by Xi'an's residents about the city's handling of the lockdown have garnered media and public attention across the country. Locals have voiced their frustration online about the challenges of getting food and other necessities under the stay-at-home order. There have also been fatalities due to hospitals refusing to admit individuals needing immediate medical care for non-COVID issues, including one heart attack patient and two unborn infants. The city's local health code app also crashed at least twice and disrupted contact-tracing efforts. The Xi'an city government has vowed to respond; some 30 local officials have been removed from their posts or otherwise punished for the fallout.
Renewed commitment to 'zero tolerance' . . .
While Xi'an's daily case count has fallen below 100, no date has been announced for lifting the lockdown, as China has maintained its goal of "zero social transmission." A smaller city, Yuzhou, in neighbouring Henan province, was also put under lockdown on Sunday after three asymptomatic cases were discovered. Despite questions raised about the zero-COVID strategy, the Chinese government is unlikely to be persuaded to abandon it and may even tighten restrictions further, especially as the Winter Olympics and Chinese New Year travel peaks are a month away, and as the highly transmissible Omicron variant is fuelling surges in many other countries.
- BBC: Why China is still trying to achieve zero Covid
- Lianhe Zaobao: 西安疫情告急未了 河南禹州出现新病例全市居家隔离 舆论压力升级
- South China Morning Post: Xian updates Covid-19 rules as two unborn babies lost to hospital delays