Officials believe the cluster is linked to an inbound flight from Pakistan on Dec. 4, in which at least six passengers were found to be carrying the Delta variant. So far, no cases of the Omicron variant have been reported in Xi’an.
Authorities quickly took action, suspending schools and conducting massive tests across the city. However, the cases have continued to rise. Since December 9, the city has registered a total of 206 cases. On Wednesday, authorities registered 63 new locally transmitted cases, Xi’an’s highest daily figure this month.
Xi’an has now been designated a “controlled area,” China’s second-highest category of lockdown — meaning residents are not allowed to leave their homes except in urgent cases such as medical emergencies. Each household is only allowed to send one designated person out of the house every two days to run errands.
Schools, public facilities and transportation systems are also closed, except for essential service providers such as hospitals and supermarkets, according to the local government’s announcement.
Xi’an is one level away from the highest gated category of “sealed area,” in which residents are completely banned from leaving their homes and groceries are delivered to their door.
This is only the fourth time a major Chinese city has been placed under “controlled zone” lockdown. While previous outbreaks have had similar limitations, they usually only apply to specific areas where infections are most common — not an entire city.
The emergence of yet another outbreak has raised questions about the long-term viability of China’s ambitious “zero-covid” policy, which aims to completely eradicate the virus within national borders.
Despite administering more than 2.7 billion doses of its homegrown vaccines, authorities have struggled with a number of rapidly spreading outbreaks.
In the past week alone, in addition to Xi’an, cases have also been recorded in Henan provinces, Zhejiang Province, Guangdong Province, Guangxi Autonomous Region and the cities of Beijing and Tianjin.