The locked-down Chinese city of Xi’an on Monday tightened Covid-19 controls to the “strictest” level, barring residents from driving cars through the city in a bid to contain the country’s worst outbreak in 21 months.
China has maintained a “zero-covid” strategy of tight border restrictions, extended quarantines and targeted lockdowns as Beijing prepares to welcome thousands of foreign visitors for the February Winter Olympics.
But historic Xi’an — where 13 million residents face their fifth day of house arrest — is at the center of a flare that has pushed the national daily number of infections to its highest since March last year.
The restrictions were further tightened on Monday when Xi’an announced it would impose the “strictest social control measures,” according to a social media account operated by the city government.
The northern city — home to the world-famous Terracotta Warriors — registered 150 new cases on Monday, bringing the total to about 650 since Dec. 9.
No vehicles will be allowed on the road unless they help with disease control, the latest announcement said.
Police and health officials will “strictly inspect” cars, and those who break the rules could face 10 days in jail and a 500 yuan ($78) fine.
Two other cities in Shaanxi province also reported a case linked to Xi’an as authorities urged migrant workers from the city not to travel home in the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday.
The outbreak of the rapidly spreading Delta variant has caused serious symptoms in four patients, including a one-year-old child, the state-run Global Times tabloid reported.
Since the city was shut down last week, authorities have launched several rounds of mass testing and placed nearly 30,000 people in hotel quarantine.
All non-essential businesses are closed, while each household can send only one person every three days to buy the necessities.
Xi’an’s government has come under fire for its alleged mishandling of the outbreak, with China’s disciplinary body last week saying 26 local officials had been punished for virus prevention errors.
Authorities have strictly restricted traffic in and out of the city, with state broadcaster CCTV on Sunday showing trucks waiting in line at checkpoints as workers in dangerous suits checked health codes on drivers’ cell phones.
Since the coronavirus first emerged in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019, China has largely kept the pandemic at bay.
The country has officially recorded just two deaths in more than a year.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)