Chinese officials say Xi’an COVID outbreak, the worst since Wuhan, is ‘effectively contained’

Science & Health

After two weeks of arduous lockdown, during which the residents of Xi’an complained of food shortages and expressed outrage over medical services access, officials now say that the COVID-19 outbreak is under control.

covid testing line in xi'an, china
COVID-19 testing in Xi’an, China in December. Photo via Xinhua.

Since December 23, the 13 million residents of Xi’an, China, have endured the largest and longest complete lockdown due to COVID-19 since the early months of the pandemic in 2020.

  • The outbreak is “the most serious” to hit China since Wuhan, said top epidemiologist Zēng Guāng 曾光, noting that the nearly 2,000 cases of the more infectious Delta variant spread in Xi’an along multiple chains of transmission, per Caixin.
  • Few cases of the even-more-infectious Omicron variant have been reported in mainland China, though Hong Kong is currently implementing sweeping restrictions to contain an outbreak of Omicron.

The lockdown has been tough on Xi’an residents: Local officials did not communicate or coordinate effectively to get necessary food distributed, and the hashtag “It’s difficult to buy groceries in Xi’an” #西安买菜难# racked up over 400 million views on social media site Weibo.

  • Then, an alarming graphic video of a pregnant woman bleeding outside of a hospital, where she was reportedly refused entry because the validity of her latest COVID-19 test had expired by two hours, lit up the Chinese internet.
  • After the eight-months-pregnant woman had a miscarriage, government officials pledged to take steps to make healthcare services more available amid strict COVID-19 protocols. Three medical chiefs at the hospital were also fired or suspended.
  • The Wall Street Journal writes that the dramatic incident may “have marked a turning point in the public response to some of the most stringent lockdown measures in China,” but also suggests that Beijing may be trying to deflect blame on local Xi’an authorities:

The video of the woman, initially released by a local short-video outlet, started to spread widely after official media drew attention to it, an unusual move that suggested some dissatisfaction in Beijing with how Xi’an was handling its lockdown. Social-media accounts reposting the video included ones belonging to the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper, and the press outlet of China’s State Council, its cabinet.

The Xi’an lockdown may not go on too much longer, judging by official comments:

  • The spread of COVID in Xi’an has been “effectively contained” (有效控制), the city’s vice mayor, Xú Míngfēi 徐明非, said yesterday (in Chinese). At a press conference (in Chinese), officials noted that in the past three rounds of mass testing, all new cases were found in “isolated and controlled areas.”
  • A senior Chinese health official reiterated this message today: “Although cases may still be found in the future, the risk of a large-scale rebound has been basically controlled,” said Lǐ Qún 李群 (in Chinese), the director of the health emergency center of the Chinese CDC.

More COVID-19 updates from China: