Xi’an COVID Lockdown Traps Some in Hotels, Requires Guests to Be Tested Every 2 Days

13 million people were locked down in the northeastern Chinese city of Xi’an as of midnight Wednesday, locking up some guests in hotels and requiring frequent tests after a surge in COVID-19 infections.

The city of Xi’an on Thursday reported 63 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases, bringing the total cases to more than 211 in the past week. The surge in infections has put the city on lockdown as part of China’s “zero tolerance” policy.

People staying in nearby hotels got stuck after the lockdown was imposed.

The receptionist at Hanting Hotel told me, “We do not receive any new guests, and no guests present are allowed to leave the hotel.”

In addition, the Hanting Hotel requires guests to be tested for COVID-19 every two days.

For Xi’an residents, everyone should stay at home. Only one person from each household will be allowed to leave every two days to go shopping for essentials, according to the government’s order.

However, social media posts indicate that restrictions on people leaving their homes are not being strictly enforced.

It is not known when the lockdown will end or whether the new infections are from the Omicron variant. China has reported seven cases of Omicron but none in Xi’an.

Beijing, China, COVID-19
China has ordered the closure of up to 13 million people in neighborhoods and workplaces in the northern city of Xi’an after a sharp rise in coronavirus cases, sparking panic just weeks before the country hosts the Winter Olympics. Above, cyclists wearing face masks to protect against COVID-19 wait at an intersection in Beijing’s central business district on December 23, 2021.
Mark Schiefelbein / AP Photo

The owner of a local bookstore said that he closed ten days ago, “for fear of an exacerbation of the epidemiological situation.”

“Now I’m staying at home watching TV.” Said the owner, who only mentioned his nickname, Xiao.

“There will be an impact on our business, and we have no idea how long that will take,” he told me.

He said that moving outside his residence requires permission from the neighborhood committee. “I think the situation will improve eventually, and I’m not worried at all because we have the government behind us,” Xiao said.

Although the latest outbreak is located 1,000 kilometers (about 620 miles) southwest of the Olympic host city Beijing, any sign that the epidemic may be worsening in China will raise questions about whether and how it will be able to welcome the thousands of athletes, officials and journalists. When games open in just weeks on February 4th.

On the other hand, there is a tremendous amount of national pride and investment in the Olympics and few want to cancel, postpone, or re-imagining the dramatic at this late stage.

On the other hand, the Chinese authorities have adopted strict measures throughout the pandemic as part of their policy of striving to eradicate every last case – and it is hard to see how welcoming so many people from abroad would fit into this strategy.

This “zero tolerance” policy, which led to frequent shutdowns, mass disappearances and mass testing, was not entirely successful. It has led to massive disruptions to travel and trade, but Beijing credits it with largely containing the spread of the virus. Overall, China has reported 4,636 deaths and 100,644 cases of COVID-19.

China is also dealing with major outbreaks of the coronavirus in several cities in the eastern province of Zhejiang near Shanghai, although isolation measures there have been more targeted.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Xi'an, China, COVID-19 lockdown
China on Wednesday ordered the confinement of millions of people in neighborhoods and workplaces in the northern city of Xi’an after a sharp rise in coronavirus cases. In this photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, residents line up for tests at a COVID-19 testing site in Xi’an City, northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, on December 21, 2021.
Li Yibo / Xinhua / Associated Press Photo

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