Xi'an imposes lockdown as light symptoms, infections outside quarantine suggest community outbreak risks
Published: Dec 24, 2021 11:17 PM
Residents queue up for nucleic acid test at a testing site in Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, Dec. 21, 2021.Photo: Xinhua

Residents queue up for nucleic acid test at a testing site in Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, Dec. 21, 2021.Photo: Xinhua

Xi'an in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province reported 49 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, the second day of the city's lockdown, and local health authorities explained to the public the strict measures were adopted considering the light symptoms of patients in early days and infections found in mass screening suggest a high risk of community outbreak. 

At a Friday press conference on epidemic control, the local CDC said positive cases were found scattered across the city with a population of 13 million in the first round of mass nucleic acid screening. 

There were community transmissions, and epidemiological investigations found the patients' travel histories are complicated and involved a wide range of places, which made the tracking and identification of close contacts a difficult task.

Media reported the current resurgence in Xi'an involved multiple unclear infection chains and cases were found in multiple districts. 

The outbreak was caused by the Delta variant, which does not transmit as fast as Omicron but still has strong infectivity. Reducing people's movements and gatherings and slowing the city down is the method used in the race against time to curb the virus. 

Analysis of samples found the domestically transmitted infections have virus strains similar to an imported case from Pakistan that was reported on December 4. The first domestic case was reported on December 9, and so far 255 infections have been reported in Xi'an.

The epidemic also spilled over into six places in five provincial regions, including the capital Beijing, which will host the Winter Olympics in 42 days, the length of three normal quarantine periods. 

Disciplinary authorities in Xi'an have punished 26 people and four local Party organizations and other institutions. 

Among them, 10 people were punished by Party discipline or dealt with by related organizations for failing to strictly follow protocols, and their chaotic management that resulted in the infection of staff working in a quarantine hotel for overseas travelers. Another four were given administrative punishment for failing to promptly control and manage close contacts of confirmed cases.

Another reason for the unusual control measures in Xi'an was that many people who tested positive have only showed light symptoms. Patients can easily neglect these signals and unknowingly cause the virus to spread quickly. 

The CDC official said the heightened control measures were aimed at identifying potential infections and quarantining them as soon as possible to ensure everyone's health. 

Global Times