China locked down the western city of Xi’an on Thursday to stamp out a persistent Covid outbreak, it’s biggest such move since the pandemic started in Wuhan, underscoring how the country’s zero-tolerance approach hasn’t allowed it to move on since the virus emerged nearly two years ago.
The 13 million residents of Xi’an were told to remain in their homes and to designate one person to go out every other day for necessities, triggering fights over access to food.
Non-essential travel out of the city was banned. This came after the second round of mass testing pinpointed 127 Covid infections scattered across 14 districts, making containment of the virus “grave and complicated,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
The rising number of cases underscores the challenge China faces at a time of increased holiday travel and preparation for the winter Olympic Games, which will feature an influx of athletes and their entourages in February. The vast majority of the infections stem from the delta variant, which spread through most of the world in the summer and fall. The country is girding for the more infectious omicron strain, which has been shown to evade immunity from vaccination or previous infection.
Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan urged “swift” measures to curb the spread of infections, the report said. Sun, whose membership in the 25-person Politburo makes her one of China’s most-senior officials, also stressed the importance of tightening restrictions on the movement of people to prevent large gatherings in key areas, according to Xinhua.