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People in protective suits stand guard at an entrance of a residential compound in Xi'an on January 5.
People in protective suits stand guard at an entrance of a residential compound in Xi’an on January 5. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Authorities in the Chinese city of Xi’an — which has locked down its 13 million residents for the past two weeks — said they could begin easing the tight restrictions if the city reaches “zero community Covid.”

That means when confirmed coronavirus cases are only identified in government-designated centralized quarantine facilities.

Chen Zhiyun, deputy director of Xi’an’s CDC, said in an interview with state-run CCTV that “no more new community transmission is a necessary condition for lifting lockdown.”

In order to reduce community transmission, Chen said authorities have transported groups of people “with certain transmission risks” to government quarantine facilities.

In a news conference Monday, Xi’an authorities said the city has transferred nearly 40,000 people to the quarantine centers.

Videos circulating online showing large groups of people being transported to the sites with poor facilities have sparked further criticism.

“‘Zero community Covid’ is such a clever word as we just need to keep transporting patients and close contacts out until Xi’an’s case is zero, guaranteeing the great victory of Xi’an’s fight against Covid-19,” one user posted on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform.

“If there are no people in the neighborhood, surely there is no community transmission there,” another Weibo user commented.

Daily cases: Xi’an confirmed 35 new locally transmitted cases on Tuesday, a significant drop compared to the 95 infections reported Monday, according to the National Health Commission. It brings total cases linked to the outbreak to 1,793 since it began December 9.

Not enough food: Residents have continued to voice concerns on Chinese social media about not getting enough food, daily necessities and not receiving urgent medical attention. The hashtag “Grocery shopping in Xi’an is difficult” had been viewed more than 430 million times on Weibo as of Wednesday morning.

Xi’an has faced China’s worst Covid-19 outbreak since Wuhan. It has been under lockdown since December 23, and further tightened measures that restricted residents from leaving home unless permitted for mass testing.


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