Authorities in Xi’an have locked down the entire city after reporting over 100 new coronavirus cases. China has employed lockdowns, mass testing, and centralized quarantines to pursue a “zero-covid” strategy. The Xi’an lockdown is the latest demonstration of resolve on the part of the Chinese leadership to take immediate and often drastic action to stem the tide of the infectious disease. At The Wall Street Journal, Liyan Qi reported on the lockdown of this city of thirteen million people:
Since Dec. 9, the city in the northwest of China has confirmed more than 140 Covid-19 cases, city officials said at a briefing.
[…] After Xi’an officials announced the stay-at-home order Wednesday afternoon, local residents rushed to grocery stores to stock up on food. The city, known for its terra-cotta warriors, allows one family member to do grocery runs every two days.
[…] Many college students in Xi’an, which is home to dozens of universities, resorted to social media to vent about the lockdown, with some worrying that the lockdown will prevent them from taking upcoming graduate-school entrance exams. [Source]
Xi’an residents thronged local stores, hoping to secure supplies before the lockdown went into effect. The government says new supplies will be brought in on Thursday:
— 方舟子 (@fangshimin) December 22, 2021
In the days before the lockdown, Xi’an’s health code application crashed due to excessive use, inconveniencing local residents. A Weibo rumor held that fixing the crashed app was delayed because engineers could not access the building without displaying green codes on the health app—the very app that they were tasked with repairing. Chongqing’s Shangyou News (上游新闻) reported that the company responsible denied the rumor, but seemed unwilling to elaborate. Residents cannot ride buses, take taxis, or enter certain buildings without a green code. When health codes turn yellow—whether due to potential exposure or “spacial-temporal proximity”—people can find themselves stranded in their apartments or, worse, caught in a Kafka-esque cycle of testing and entry bans. Residents speak of “guarding the green horse,” a homophone for a green QR code, to describe their efforts to maintain the green codes that allow them freedom of movement.
Cao Siqi and Yu Xi of state-run tabloid Global Times provided further detail on Xi’an’s epidemic situation:
These strict measures came after a city-wide nucleic acid testing program starting from Sunday, which detected 42 cases on Monday and 52 cases on Tuesday. So far, the outbreak has affected five other cities – Xianyang and Yan’an in Shaanxi, Zhoukou in Central China’s Henan Province, Dongguan in South China’s Guangdong Province, and Beijing.
[…] Some people questioned why the city has conducted a full-scale epidemiological survey at this early stage, since the specific transmission route is still not clear, and there is a lack of clear correlation among various transmission chains. Some said compared with a survey in Tianjin, in which the movements of patients could be pinpointed to minutes, the results in Xi’an were incomplete and unclear.
[…] “A larger number of sporadic cases have not yet been linked to the current transmissions, which indicated that there has been hidden transmission in Xi’an,” Lu Hongzhou, head of the Third People’s Hospital of Shenzhen and member of the expert committee of national disease control and prevention, told the Global Times on Wednesday. [Source]
COVID is not the only disease plaguing Xi’an. At South China Morning Post, Zhuang Pinghui reported on a concurrent outbreak of a separate deadly disease in Xi’an, haemorrhagic fever:
The disease is predominantly caused by hantavirus. Rodents are the main source of infection and it can be transmitted by a rodent bite or by eating food or water contaminated by a rodent. It transmits mostly from animal to people and spread from human to human is extremely rare.
The Xian Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement on Sunday that haemorrhagic fever was currently at its peak. It said the disease’s early symptoms were similar to the onset of respiratory infectious diseases such as a common cold and the centre urged residents not to ignore symptoms or wait to be treated.
[…] According to the Shaanxi CDC 2020 work report, a total of 1,834 cases of haemorrhagic fever were reported in the province last year, up 90.05 per cent from 965 cases in 2019. [Source]
Lockdowns are more common along China’s borders, which are perceived as vectors of disease, fairly or not. Two cities in Yunnan and Xinjiang have been subject to months-long, rolling lockdowns throughout the pandemic. At The Washington Post, Lily Kuo reported on the less-noticed lockdown of a city of 200,000 along the southern border:
The city of Dongxing, which borders Vietnam in China’s southern Guangxi province, on Wednesday ordered all households to quarantine at home until further notice after a resident tested positive during a routine screening, according to state broadcaster CCTV. Schools, public transportation and most businesses, except for supermarkets and pharmacies, were temporarily shuttered as authorities launched a campaign to test everyone in the city.
Customs processing in the city, the entry point for a million tons of goods annually from Vietnam, was also halted while the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi asked Chinese citizens in Vietnam not to return by land.
[…] China’s pursuit of a stringent “zero covid” policy has resulted in increasingly strict border controls and quarantines and frequent lockdowns across the country. According to Vietnam’s state-controlled Hanoi Times, more than 6,000 trucks carrying fruit have been stranded along the Chinese-Vietnamese border for several weeks. [Source]
As of Dec 21, Vietnam's container trucks stuck at border gates with China climb to more than 6,000 due to China’s tougher Covid-19 restrictions. This is a sudden move. Under bilateral border agreements, changes in import policy must be informed 10 days prior to the enforcement. pic.twitter.com/WGj6LYWnkB
— The Hanoi Times (@Hanoitimes2) December 21, 2021