China ends 2021 with its highest tally of Covid cases for nearly two years as it records 1,151 infections in a week
- China recorded some 1,151 coronavirus infections over the last seven days
- The country’s surge has been driven mostly by an outbreak in Xian
- Tech hub city of 13million has been under a strict lockdown for ten days
China’s Covid cases have hit their highest level since the country tamed its first wave of the pandemic nearly two years ago.
The country recorded some 1,151 infections over the last seven days, subduing business despite it being under some of the world’s toughest Covid measures.
The National Health Commission reported on Saturday 175 new community infections with confirmed clinical symptoms for December 31.
China’s surge has been driven mostly by an outbreak in the northwestern industrial and tech hub of Xian.
The city of 13million which has been under such a strict lockdown citizens have been left surviving on a bowl of porridge a day, despite Beijing insisting there are ‘sufficient’ food supplies.
The deepening outbreak in Xian will likely firm authorities’ resolve to curb transmissions quickly as and when cases emerge.
China’s Covid cases have hit their highest level since the country tamed its first wave of the pandemic nearly two years ago. Pictured: People wear masks as they pray for the New Year at the Guiyuan temple in Wuhan, where the pandemic first started
The surge has been driven mostly by an outbreak in the northwestern industrial and tech hub of Xian, a city of 13million which has been under such a strict lockdown citizens have been left surviving on a bowl of porridge a day despite Beijing insisting there are ‘sufficient’ food supplies. Pictured: A Xian citizen tests for Covid on Thursday
A worker prepares food supplies to be delivered to residents of a residential compound under lockdown in Xian, China
China has recorded some 1,151 infections over the last seven days, subduing business despite it being under some of the world’s toughest Covid measures
‘Starving’ residents in the locked-down Chinese city of Xian are surviving on a bowl of porridge a day despite Beijing insisting there are ‘sufficient’ food supplies.
Thirteen million residents in northern Xian are in their tenth day of home confinement, and national health officials have called for measures to be strengthened further as China battles its worst virus surge in months.
Xian’s inhabitants have been complaining of food shortages on social media but while officials admitted that there had been trouble providing essential supplies, they said ‘the total supply of daily necessities in Xian is sufficient’.
One resident surnamed Wang said: ‘I live on…. a bowl of porridge every day, just to keep alive.
‘I heard friends in other districts got their food delivered, but not here in Weiyang district.’
One woman said: ‘I didn’t get any food delivered to me. I managed to order something from our convenience store downstairs two days ago, but not today.’
‘I have rice at home… I have several eggs left – one per meal, one meal per day,’ she said.
Another resident who didn’t want to be named said she only had enough food because she had persuaded the community manager at the gate to let her slip out to the supermarket for half an hour to get supplies.
Supplies were low and the vegetables were not fresh, she said, adding that by Thursday police had been stationed outside the block.
Beijing has followed a strict ‘zero Covid’ strategy involving tight border restrictions and targeted lockdowns since the virus first surfaced in Wuhan in late 2019.
But officials admitted at a press conference on Wednesday that ‘low staff attendance and difficulties in logistics and distribution’ had led to trouble providing essential supplies as the country faces a resurgence in infections.
The city, under lockdown for 10 days as of Saturday, has reported 1,451 local symptomatic cases since December 9, the highest tally for any Chinese city in 2021.
While China’s case count is tiny compared to many outbreaks elsewhere in the world, forestalling major flare-ups in 2022 will be important.
Beijing will be hosting the Winter Olympic Games in February, and the ruling Communist Party will hold a once-every-five-years congress, expected in the fall, where President Xi Jinping will likely secure a third term as party secretary.
The emergence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant will also drive Beijing to stick to its high vigilance against the virus. China has reported a handful of imported Omicron cases and at least one locally transmitted case.
Since August, China has tried to get any outbreak under control within about two weeks, much shorter than the four to six weeks in earlier battles against sporadic flare-ups following the initial nationwide epidemic, according to the National Health Commission.
Cities along China’s borders are at higher virus risk, either due to the presence of overland transport links or entry of infected travellers from other countries.
Some were hit by Delta outbreaks that resulted in harsh travel curbs last year.
Yunnan, which shares a border with Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, reported new local symptomatic cases on 92 out of 365 days last year, or 25 per cent of the time, more often than any other province, autonomous region or municipality.
The Xian outbreak, which led to cases in other cities including Beijing, could be traced back to a flight arriving from Pakistan, but it was unclear how it spread to local communities.
Many people have been forbidden from leaving their residential compounds, but a city government official said on Friday curbs would be loosened in less risky compounds when the time was right.
Postgraduate student Li Jiaxin, 23, said nobody can leave the campus of her university.
She spent New Year’s Eve with her three room mates and was unable to meet with her boyfriend and family.
‘I may be what you would consider a person with a strong sense of ritual, so I still feel a little sad that we are not together at this time,’ she said.
China’s tough epidemic policies have helped stop its sprawling industrial sector from sliding into prolonged shutdowns, reaping important export gains as other pillars of growth weakened.
But unpredictable disruptions have shaken consumer sentiment and hammered the catering, hospitality and tourism sectors.
An employee surnamed Wang at a traditional teahouse in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, said her company’s revenues had been halved compared with pre-pandemic levels.
‘Many guests from other provinces had came to our teahouse specially for a taste of Yunnan’s pu’er tea, but now there are fewer of them,’ Wang said.
‘My salary hasn’t been cut, but I feel I may lose my job at any time.’
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