Residents of the Chinese city of Xi’an are subjected to a strict coronavirus lockdown, with business owners facing additional closures and some people reporting difficulty finding food, despite assurances from authorities that they will be able to provide necessities for the 13 million people who have been largely confined to their homes.
Stringent measures to contain outbreaks are common in China, which has maintained a policy of eradicating all COVID-19 cases long after many other countries have chosen to live with the virus. However, the lockdown imposed in Xi’an on December 23 is one of the harshest in the country since a shutdown in and around Wuhan in 2020, after the coronavirus was first detected there. Authorities announced on Tuesday that another city, Yuzhou in Henan province, had been placed under lockdown over the weekend due to the discovery of only three asymptomatic cases.
Despite the risk of retaliation from Communist authorities, the Chinese have mostly complied with the tough measures throughout the pandemic. However, there have been complaints about the tough policies. The Xi’an lockdown, on the other hand, comes at a particularly sensitive time, as China prepares to host the Beijing Winter Olympics, which begin on Feb. 4, and is thus under extra pressure to contain this outbreak.
The Xi’an lockdown originally allowed people to leave the house every two days to shop for basic necessities, but it has since been tightened, with the rules varying depending on the severity of the outbreak in each district. Some people are not permitted to leave their homes and must have goods delivered to them. People are only permitted to leave the city with special permission.
People in Xi’an have recently been seen shopping at pop-up markets, which are served by workers wearing head-to-toe white protective suits. Volunteers from the community also went to people’s homes to see what they needed.
Nonetheless, the strain is beginning to show, with residents increasingly complaining on Weibo about their inability to obtain necessities. Guards were seen attacking a man who attempted to deliver steamed buns to family members in one widely shared video. According to a Xi’an police statement posted on Weibo, the guards later apologized to the man and were fined 200 yuan ($31).
China’s “zero tolerance” strategy of quarantining every case, mass testing, and attempting to prevent new infections from entering the country aided in the containment of previous outbreaks. The lockdowns, however, are far more severe than anything seen in the West, and they have taken a huge toll on the economy and the lives of millions of people.
As in Yuzhou, the measures are frequently put in place after only a few cases are identified. Residents have been allowed to return to the 1.7 million-person city since the rules were imposed on Sunday, but they are not permitted to leave and must remain at home. On city streets, only emergency vehicles are permitted. Restaurants, sports facilities, and a variety of other businesses have been ordered to close, and markets can only provide basic necessities, according to a city government order.
Meanwhile, Xi’an, home to the famed Terracotta Army statues as well as major industries, has seen more than 1,600 cases in a surge that officials attribute to the delta variant, which is less infectious than the newer omicron strain, of which China has only reported a handful of cases. On Tuesday, 95 new infections were reported.
Since the pandemic began, China has reported 102,841 cases and 4,636 deaths. While those figures are small in comparison to the United States and other countries, and are most likely undercounts, they do show the persistence of the virus despite the sometimes draconian measures taken by China.
While Wuhan’s health-care system was overburdened after the pandemic struck in late 2019, China has reported no shortages of beds, medical equipment, or personnel in Xi’an. Two dozen special teams have been formed to deal with COVID-19 cases, and two hospitals have been designated to provide other types of care, according to Xinhua.
According to Our World in Data, China has vaccinated nearly 85 percent of its population. The shots have helped to reduce the severity of the disease, though Chinese vaccines are thought to be less effective than those used elsewhere.