China began 2022 with its largest count of local coronavirus cases for any period of seven days since it curbed the country’s first epidemic nearly two years ago, despite an arsenal of some of the world’s most stringent COVID-19 measures.
The National Health Commission on Saturday reported 175 new community infections with confirmed clinical symptoms for December 31, bringing the total number of local symptomatic cases in mainland China to 1,151 last week.
The boom was mainly due to an outbreak in the northwestern industrial and technological hub of Xi’an, a city of 13 million.
The deepening outbreak in Xi’an is likely to prompt the permanent authorities’ decision to combat broadcasts quickly as and when cases arise.
The city, which has been locked for 10 days from Saturday, has reported 1,451 local symptomatic cases since December 9, the highest score for any Chinese city in 2021.
The state-sponsored publication, China Daily, said that the capital of Shaanxi province “is still facing a tough battle” against the outbreak, and that there is still no “turning point” in containing the spread of the virus. .
Liu Guozhong, secretary of the Shaanxi Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China, said there should be a “sense of urgency in the fight against COVID-19 in the days to come”.
“Xi’an is the decisive destination in the fight against the pandemic and only when the outbreak in Xi’an has been brought under control can we fundamentally reverse the passive situation in the whole province,” Liu was quoted as saying by China Daily.
Upcoming Winter Olympics
While China’s number of cases is small compared to many outbreaks elsewhere in the world, it will be important to prevent major flares in 2022.
Beijing will host the Winter Olympics in February, and the ruling Communist Party will hold a congress once every five years, which is expected in the fall, where President Xi Jinping is likely to secure a third term as party secretary.
In his New Year’s speech, Xi said that China “will spare no effort to present a wonderful game to the world”.
The rise of the highly transmissible Omicron variant will also drive Beijing to stay with its high vigilance against the virus. China has reported a handful of imported Omicron cases and at least one locally transferred case.
Since August, China has been trying to get outbreaks under control within about two weeks, much shorter than the four to six weeks in earlier battles against sporadic flares following the initial nationwide epidemic, according to the National Health Commission.
Cities along China’s borders have a greater virus risk, either due to the presence of overland transportation connections or the entry of infected travelers from other countries. Some were hit by Delta eruptions that led to severe travel restrictions 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 percent of the time, more often than any other province, autonomous region or municipality.
The Xi’an 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 banned from leaving their neighborhoods, but a city government official said Friday that curbs will be loosened in less risky connections when the time is right.
China’s strict epidemic policy has helped prevent its sprawling industrial sector from falling into prolonged stagnation, achieving significant export gains as other pillars of growth weakened.
But unpredictable disruptions have shaken consumer sentiment and plagued the catering, hospitality and tourism sectors.