Thursday, January 20, 2022

Community spread of COVID-19 basically blocked in China's Xi'an

Xinhua/Zhang Bowen

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Xian, 10 January (2022) - Xi'an, capital city of northwest China's Shaanxi Province, has basically stopped the spread of COVID-19 in communities one month after the resurgence of the epidemic hit the city, thanks to stringent containment measures such as city-level lockdown and rounds of mass nucleic acid testing.

The virus spread in communities had been basically cut off, Xu Mingfei, vice mayor of Xi'an, told a press conference on Jan. 5. Xu said that all the new cases found over the previous rounds of nucleic acid testing were among the people who were quarantined at designated places (centralized quarantine) or at home.

Daily cases in Xi'an with a population of 13 million began to drop since the start of this year and slipped to two-digit numbers quickly, with 30 new cases, all in centralized quarantine, reported on Saturday.

The city, a popular tourist destination known for the Terracotta Warriors, registered 1,989 locally transmitted confirmed cases as of Saturday since Dec. 9, 2021.

The viral genome sequencing of the new cases has identified them as strains of the highly contagious Delta variant, which are highly homologous with imported cases from an inbound flight on Dec. 4, 2021, according to the provincial center for disease control and prevention.

STRICT CONTAINMENT MEASURES

Many positive patients didn't show obvious symptoms in the initial stage, and they tended to ignore their physical condition, which led to community transmission and clustered cases, local officials have said.

The number of confirmed cases in Xi'an rose by more than 150 per day for a week in late December, and the virus has spread to other cities and provinces.

To curb the spread of the virus, the city has launched several rounds of mass nucleic acid testing, with thousands of sample collecting venues set up.

A medical worker takes a swab sample from a resident for nucleic acid testing in Beilin District of Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province, Dec. 29, 2021. (Xinhua/Zhang Bowen)

Mass nucleic acid testing can help health authorities identify the infected cases and put them under quarantine early. Meanwhile, it is conducive to adopting precise control measures and relieving public stress, said Li Qun, director of the health emergency center of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

As the trajectories of the positive cases in Xi'an were complex and involved a wider area, and some could not be traced to known sources, the megacity imposed closed-off management for communities and villages since Dec. 23 last year.

"The strict containment measures introduced are based on the epidemic situation to prevent transmission within the city and spreading elsewhere," said Lei Zhenglong, a member of the Xi'an taskforce team sent by the State Council for epidemic control.

JOINT EFFORTS AGAINST EPIDEMIC

During a recent tour to Shaanxi Province for investigation and research on prevention and control of the epidemic, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan said that Xi'an saw a sharp decline in daily-reported new COVID-19 cases and had basically blocked the spread of COVID-19 in communities. However, Sun warned that the epidemic containment is still at a crucial stage, and urged efforts to prevent the rebound of the epidemic.

As of 6 p.m. Jan. 6, the city arranged 431 venues for centralized quarantines, putting 45,760 people under quarantine.

"The quarantined personnel have overcome the inconvenience to themselves and their families for the safety of all. They are also heroes," said vice mayor Xu.

Ma Hui, one of the residents in isolation, recorded his life in a quarantined site in short videos. "Despite some inconvenience at the beginning, the room is warm, and we receive necessities and even snacks," said Ma, 40, in a video.

Community workers and volunteers have devoted themselves to sending free groceries to residents in lockdown. People can also place orders online, and items will be distributed and delivered to each household by community staff and volunteers.

The city government has taken measures to help people under closed-off management overcome inconvenience brought about by containment measures.

For example, responding to people's difficulty in accessing medical services, the city government has dispatched buses to shuttle those who need emergency treatment at hospitals to prevent the risk of cross-infection, said vice mayor Xu.

In Yanta District, the worst-hit district, several officials, including the Party chief of the Yanta District, have been removed from posts due to dereliction of duty.

As notable progress has been made to control the epidemic, Xi'an will gradually lift closed-off management based on the judgment and research conducted by national and provincial experts, Lyu Yongpeng, deputy director of the city's health commission, said on Saturday.

As of Saturday, a total of 262 patients had been discharged from hospitals after recovery.

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