Hundreds of thousands of people in northern China were forced to stay at home on Tuesday, joining millions already under severe lockdown as authorities scrambled to curb a 21-month high in Covid cases.
As Beijing prepares to welcome thousands of international guests to the Winter Olympics in February, it has adopted a “zero-Covid” strategy of severe border restrictions, lengthy quarantines, and targeted lockdowns.
However, authorities have been dealing with a resurgent virus in recent weeks, reporting 209 infections on Tuesday, the biggest single-day figure since the pandemic raged through Wuhan in March last year.
While the increase is minor in contrast to the widespread occurrences in Europe and the United States, it has forced officials in Xi’an, China’s largest city, to impose the “strictest” conceivable restrictions in the city’s 13 million citizens, who are now on their sixth day of home confinement.
Nearby cities have reported cases tied to the flare-up, with Yan’an, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) from Xi’an, shutting down businesses and ordering hundreds of thousands of people to stay indoors in one district on Tuesday.
Since the similar-sized Wuhan was sealed off, the Xi’an lockdown is the most widespread in China.
According to state broadcaster CCTV, the city has set up over 4,400 sampling locations and employed over 100,000 workers to handle the newest round of testing. Masked residents were seen queuing in the streets and sports centers to be tested.
However, because they are prohibited from driving and are only allowed to send one household member out to buy supplies every three days, many Xi’an residents have turned to social media to ask for assistance in obtaining food and other necessities.
On the Weibo site, one user remarked, “I’m about to be starved to death,”
“There’s no food, my housing compound won’t let me out, and I’m about to run out of instant noodles … please help!”
Another said, “I don’t want to hear any more news about how everything is fine,”
“So what if supplies are so abundant — they’re useless if you don’t actually give them to people.”
Authorities have maintained rigorous controls on travel into and out of Xi’an, insisting that supplies stay stable.
Students have also been prohibited from leaving their university dorms unless absolutely essential, according to CCTV.