China’s Covid Outbreak Festers in Xi’an Days After Lockdown
(Bloomberg) -- A Covid outbreak in the western Chinese city of Xi’an continued to fester, with new cases hitting a record high days after its 13 million residents were locked down in an effort to stymie the spread of the virus.
Daily infections rose to 175 in Xi’an, a jump from the roughly 150 cases seen in each of the past two days, as authorities initiated a fourth round of testing to pinpoint more infections in the community. The outbreak is being driven by the delta variant, and has been traced back to a flight from Pakistan.
Nationwide the country reported 185 domestic infections, the most since January.
Local health authorities in Xi’an have warned of more infections as repeat testing uncovers previously unknown routes of transmission. The city was locked down on Thursday, when the number of cases was still low but they permeated every district, raising concern that the detected infections were only the tip of the iceberg.
The Xi’an lockdown is the most sweeping measure China has taken since sealing off the similarly-sized Wuhan following the coronavirus’ initial emergence there around two years ago. While health officials have closed off smaller border towns and lower-tier cities to contain flareups throughout the pandemic, they rarely resort to stringent movement restrictions for major urban centers with populations of more than 10 million.
The sweeping containment curbs and the subsequent surge in Xi’an underscores the difficulty China faces in eliminating the virus that’s accumulating mutations that make it more transmissible and capable of sidestepping existing vaccine-induced immunity. The restrictions that quickly squelched earlier flareups in China haven’t had the same success since the delta variant took hold in the country, which has yet to see an omicron outbreak.
Authorities are beefing up defenses at the country’s sealed international borders amid the rise of the even more infectious omicron variant elsewhere in the world. Buffer zones have been created to allow for more checks at ports and borders to stop the virus from spawning local flareups.
In a sign of tighter restrictions for international travel, a flight operated by Delta Air Lines Inc. bound for Shanghai over the weekend turned back to Seattle. Delta officials cited new cleaning procedures that required “significantly extended ground time” that the carrier said it wasn’t prepared to comply with at the time. Delta flights to the city remain “fluid,” the airline said.
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