Coronavirus: China lifts months-long lockdown in Xi’an

BEIJING – Chinese authorities lifted a month-long embargo on the city of Xi’an and its 13 million residents on Monday as infections eased ahead of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Beijing opens in less than two weeks.

In Beijing, 2 million residents of the Fengtai district underwent testing after discovering more than three dozen cases in the capital. Targeted testing was conducted in residential communities in six other counties.

The government asked people in high-risk areas of Beijing not to leave the city after detecting 25 cases in Fengtai and 14 elsewhere. Residents lined up Sunday on snow-covered sidewalks in the frigid weather for testing.

The Beijing Municipal Health Commission also said on Sunday that anyone who has purchased medicine for fever, cough and other infections within the past two weeks will have to take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours, The state-run Global Times newspaper reported.

The Olympics are being held under strict controls to isolate athletes, staff, reporters and officials from the public. Athletes are required to be vaccinated or undergo a quarantine after arriving in China.

The Xi’an government announcement on Monday follows the resumption of commercial flights from the city over the weekend. The major tourist center and ancient capital, famous for being home to the Terracotta Warriors army, struggled to feed some of its residents in the early days of the shutdown, after people were detained. keep in their home.

Xi’an is a cornerstone of the ruling Communist Party’s “zero tolerance” strategy for COVID-19, requiring lockdowns, travel restrictions, and mass testing whenever a case is discovered.

Xi’an is about 1,000 kilometers southwest of Beijing, where the Olympics open on February 4.

Access to Xi’an was suspended on December 22 following an outbreak attributed to the delta variant of the coronavirus.

Other outbreaks have led the government to impose travel bans on several cities, including the port of Tianjin, about an hour from Beijing. Tough regulations are believed to have prevented major outbreaks across the country, and China has reported relatively few cases of the highly infectious variant of Omicron.

On Monday, China reported only 18 new local infections, including six in Beijing. The country currently has 2,754 cases of infection and has reported a total of 105,660 cases of COVID-19 with 4,636 deaths.

Several neighboring provinces have reported cases linked to the outbreak in Beijing, including Shandong and Hebei provinces. Shenyang city government in Liaoning province announced a positive test result in an asymptomatic person, also related to the Beijing cluster.

Despite the drop in case numbers, pandemic control was stepped up ahead of the Olympics, where all participants had to be tested before and after arriving in Beijing.

Organizers on Monday said 39 of the 2,586 athletes, team officials and others who arrived after January 4 tested positive for the virus upon landing at Beijing airport. . Another 33 people who joined the bubble that quarantined participants from the public later tested positive, the organizers said on its website.

The statement did not identify those who tested positive other than saying they were “external stakeholders,” a term that excludes athletes or coaches. China imposed a 21-day quarantine on arrivals from abroad, but waived that for those coming to the Olympics on the condition that they test negative for the virus.

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