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China closes 13 million people in response to Covid cluster

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Radical restrictions, which prevent people from leaving their homes, come as the country prepares for the Lunar New Year the rush of travel, quickly followed by the 2022 Winter Olympics, which will begin in the capital Beijing on February 4th.
Xi’an, an ancient city known internationally as the home of the 2,000-year-old Terracotta warriors sculptures, detected its first case related to the latest outbreak in a quarantine hotel on December 9th. The virus is believed to have spread to the community through an infected hotel worker.

Officials believe the cluster is linked to an incoming flight from Pakistan on December 4, where it was found that at least six passengers had the Delta variant. No cases of Omicron variant in Xi’an have been reported so far.

Authorities moved quickly, suspending schools and conducting mass tests for the entire city. Cases, however, have continued to rise. Since December 9, the city has registered a total of 206 cases. Authorities reported 63 new cases of local transmission on Wednesday, the highest daily figure in Xi’an this month.

At noon on Wednesday, more than 30,000 people believed to have come into contact with a confirmed case were quarantined, according to the state newspaper. China Daily. That same day, the city imposed a strict blockade until further notice for all residents.

Xi’an is now designated a “controlled area”, China’s second-highest blockade, meaning residents are not allowed to leave their homes, except in urgent cases such as medical emergencies. Each household can only send one designated person away from home to buy groceries every two days.

Following the announcement of the new restrictions, families rushed to supermarkets to stock up on supplies before the blockade took effect at midnight, according to state tabloid The Global times.

Schools, public facilities and transportation systems are also closed, except for essential service providers such as hospitals and supermarkets, according to the local government announcement.

A resident takes the Covid-19 test in Xi'an, China, on December 23rd.

Xi’an is at the highest level of the “sealed zone” blocking category, in which residents are completely forbidden to leave their homes and groceries are delivered to their door.

This is only the fourth time that a large Chinese city has come under the blockade of the “controlled area”. Although previous outbreaks have seen similar restrictions, they usually only apply to specific areas where infections are more common, not to an entire city.

The outbreak of another outbreak has raised questions about the long-term viability of China’s ambitious “zero-Covid” policy, which aims to eliminate the virus completely within the country’s borders.

Despite administering more than 2.7 billion doses of its own-produced vaccines, authorities have struggled with a series of rapidly spreading outbreaks.

The outbreak in Xi’an continues Delta-driven outbreak in summer; a September outbreak Fujian Province; an October outbreak that spread to more than half the country; then several clusters in Inner Mongolia in November, which have spread to Zhejiang province in recent weeks.

In the past week alone, in addition to Xi’an, cases have also been reported in Henan Province, Zhejiang Province, Guangdong Province, Guangxi Autonomous Region and the cities of Beijing and Tianjin.

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